The pre-free agency edition of the Oakland Raiders Weekly Roundup. Here, we’ll pull together any notable Silver and Black news from the previous week and put it together all in one place.
The NFL’s silly season is under way, and my goodness. We’ve never seen this level of movement just a few days before the official opening of free agency. Unlike other leagues, particularly the NBA, trades in the NFL are somewhat rare. Particularly on non-draft days. NFL GM’s covet draft picks with a pry them from my cold, dead hands type mentality.
Yet here we are, a few days from the free agency frenzy, and we’re seeing moves made at an unprecedented pace. The Rams have made four trades alone in the past week, and the Browns made three. The Eagles, who kind of reset the bar last season, are in the mix as well.
Players and picks are moving and shaking all around the league. Two of the best defensive backs in the AFC West are no longer in the AFC West. The Browns already ditched their QB of the future for a cornerback and acquired a bridge player to keep the clipboard warm until their presumed draft choice of this year is ready.
With all these trades, it’s only reasonable that…
The Raiders Made No Trades During The Frenzy
Trades galore, players available that aren’t usually shopped, and the Raiders stand pat. Not surprising, but definitely a bit boring. While teams are making splashes all over the NFL, the Raiders actually had a relatively quiet week in general.
Reggie McKenzie doesn’t make trades. Nope, he loves to stockpile his picks in the hopes of nailing a gem in the later rounds. A good strategy as he’s done so a few times — but it’s hard to watch all these exciting trades happening and not be a little frustrated that the Raiders are doing nothing.
Right, Raider Nation?
Somebody knock on Reggie McKenzie's door and tell him to pick up his Playstation/Xbox controller. It's going down in the league today.#Raiders
— Maurice Moton (@MoeMoton) March 9, 2018
McKenzie built a lot of good will in his early days by fixing the messiest financial situation in NFL history, regaining some cap space and drafting some excellent players. But he’s missed quite a bit in recent years and Raider fans are a bit tired of his deliberate, non-splash moves.
Coach Gruden isn’t impressed with the past three drafts, and clearly let people know it at the combine:
Live at the NFL Combine –
Jon Gruden just put #Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie and his last three drafts in a BODY BAG ⚰️.
“Gets emotional at times.”
— Albert Beer NFL🅥 (@TheFakeAlbert) February 28, 2018
Ouch. Three drafts. Emotional at times. That’s a nameless call out and clear message if I’ve ever heard one.
McKenzie’s methodical and pragmatic approach to the roster may be boring, but has gotten results. Despite many opinions to the contrary, McKenzie has done a good job of building an elite offensive line and compiling some good skill players on offense.
And while he’s missed on quite a few picks in the last few drafts — at least by appearances at this point — the jury is still out on many of the players.
The Raiders did do a few things this week. But they didn’t do much, and what they did do was met with a collective “meh” from Raider Nation. Things like…
Jon Gruden Meeting With Doug Martin
Raider fans remember Martin well. In 2012, Martin broke out against the Raiders with an incredible performance. The Oakland native came home and rolled up a Bucs franchise record 251 yards, and added four TDs. He dominated.
He had an excellent 2012, fell off the next two seasons, re-gained form in 2015 and then fell off the Earth again. So he’s had two great seasons out of six — and four below-average ones. In the past two seasons, Martin has averaged a pedestrian 2.9 yards per carry and hasn’t been able to stay healthy.
He’s aging, injury-prone and most recently very ineffective. And he’s on the Raiders radar in free agency.
Jon Gruden met Martin face-to-face and came away impressed. He thinks Martin is a great person. Wonderful — but he is not an effective running back, hasn’t been for three years and has only been twice in six seasons.
This has been met with a resounding thud among Raider Nation — most are not impressed:
And no…. I do NOT love the idea of Doug Martin for the #Raiders
— James (@RaidersReporter) March 9, 2018
Not interested in Doug Martin. Straight up.
— Marcus Chai (@OaklandScout) March 9, 2018
Especially when there are clearly better options in the mix:
This would be quite underwhelming. He's missed 13 games the last two seasons and has barely totaled 800 yards over that span.
Just draft another running back and see if a team will give up something for DWash or Richard. https://t.co/XIf5917GeA
— Nick Hjeltness (@NickHjeltness) March 9, 2018
This move is not the only one being discussed by the Raiders.
After Derek Carr went down with a back injury in 2017, E.J. Manuel was underwhelming in his play. The Raiders backup quarterback position needs to be addressed. With DeShone Kizer being traded from Cleveland to Green Bay, the Packers now have an abundance of young quarterbacks. In fact, Kizer and new teammate Brett Hundley have very similar skill sets:
— Ross Read (@RossRead) March 9, 2018
The Packers have the supply, and the Raiders the demand. So apparently…
A Possible Trade For Brent Hundley?
Another piece of news met with apathy and annoyance. Brett Hundley, really?
Well, the Raiders do need a backup to Carr. In filling in for Aaron Rodgers last year Hundley had his struggles, but he also showed some ability to play well on the big stage. He’s younger than any QB on the Raiders right now — but he made poor throws and decisions often in 2017:
NFL most intercepted passers by percentage, 2017
1. DeShone Kizer (4.6%)
2. Trevor Siemian (4.0%)
3. Deshaun Watson (3.9%)
4. Brett Hundley (3.8%)
5t. Cam Newton (3.3%)
5t. Jay Cutler (3.3%)
5t. Marcus Mariota (3.3%)
— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) March 6, 2018
Between the Martin and Hundley news, a very exciting week in the NFL was very pedestrian and frustrating for Raider Nation:
Doug Martin, Brett Hundley😴😴😴 https://t.co/W7bOq1U7sJ
— I'm here 4 this (@Rollicking_R8R) March 10, 2018
Yeah, pretty much. Players like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Vinny Curry and others are available and their names flying around. And the Raiders are talking Martin and Hundley. Ho-hum.
The only actual move of significance the Raiders did make while trades were flying and Richard Sherman was being released and Earl Thomas and Vinny Curry being shopped was…
Raiders Re-Sign Justin Ellis
To many this felt like a meh signing. While Ellis is a steady presence on the defensive line, he doesn’t push the pocket or pressure the QB. He’s a one-dimensional run-stuffer who occupies blockers — he does his job. NFL news guru Ian Rapoport reported this on Friday, and gave Ellis some decent praise:
#Raiders DT Justin Ellis has agreed to terms on a 3-year, more than $15M deal, sources say, pending review of the final contract. More $6M guaranteed. A key building block in Oakland stays in place. 💰🔏
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 9, 2018
On top of the money and Rappaport praise, Ellis joined some teammates in watching WWE NXT filming. A good week for big Jelly. Is he a key building block though? Even with a career year in 2017, he didn’t sniff the top-tier of defensive tackles:
#Raiders DI Justin Ellis put together a career year in 2017, as evidenced by his career-high 80.6 overall grade — ranked 45th among DIs — this past season.
However, he's still a one-dimensional DI with his close-to-average run defense and limited pass-rushing ability. https://t.co/Vx0G16iCu9
— Austin Gayle (@AustinGayle_PFF) March 9, 2018
McKenzie definitely lets his ego come in to play with signings, such as low-balling free agents like Zach Brown or never cutting players he’s drafted, like Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun. Is Ellis another case? Perhaps, but Ellis has been effective as a 0-tech as well.
The re-signing of Ellis also makes it less likely the Raiders draft Vita Vea. It’s not a deal-breaker but Vea would immediately supplant Ellis as the starting NT with a much more versatile skill set. Vea is a monster who should be considered at ten. So why re-sign Ellis at $5M per unless you’re looking elsewhere in the draft?
That isn’t definitively the case, but it makes sense the Raiders would go in a different direction with signing Ellis.
So the Raiders didn’t do much while many other teams were firing on all cylinders. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Trades are exciting and shake things up — but they don’t always work out. Will Jarvis Landry, Damarious Randall and Tyrod Taylor will succeed in Cleveland? Peters and Talib co-exist in the locker room and not destroy the Rams? Michael Bennett impact a stacked Philly front?
I must say, though, in light of the moves other teams are making to improve their rosters, the Raiders looking at Martin and Hundley is about as underwhelming as it gets. After a terrible 2017 season, the team actually managed to regain some mojo by signing Gruden.
The buzz is palpable but fading with every day McKenzie does nothing while the rest of the league tries to improve. That matters little to Reggie — he will stick to his process. But it will continue to frustrate and upset Raider Nation.
Well that’s it for another week of Raiders Roundup. Things are heating up in the NFL, and free agency starts this week. Mock drafts abound, and you can check out Only1Nation’s post-combine mock here courtesy of Marcus Chai. Make sure to check Only1Nation.com and follow @Only1Nation_ every day for updates and Raiders news and analysis. Join us here again next week for a roundup of what should be a very busy week in Raider Nation.