We’re about three weeks away from the start of 2022 NFL Free Agency and with a new coach and a new general manager in Las Vegas, it’s looking to be an interesting next couple of months for the Raiders. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll take a look at the past couple of offseasons for the franchise to review the hits and misses of the old Raiders regime starting with the 2019 offseason.
2018 Season Overview:
The Raiders had a tumultuous first season under new head coach Jon Gruden, beginning with a Khalil Mack holdout and eventual trade and finishing with a 4-12 record. The team felt the losses of key players Michael Crabtree, Navarro Bowman, and T.J. Carrie all season long. The Raiders also lost important starters in Donald Penn and Marshawn Lynch to injury for most of the season.
Star receiver Amari Cooper would be traded at midseason to the Dallas Cowboys, and the offensive line struggled to protect Derek Carr behind two rookie offensive tackles. The team would finish 23rd in offense and 26th in defense on the season, making for a bleak picture for Oakland.
On Jan. 1, the Raiders hired NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock to be the team’s new general manager. Armed with $72.9 million in cap space and three first-round picks, he and Gruden looked to turn around the franchise with needs at wide receiver, offensive tackle, guard, edge rusher, linebacker, cornerback, and safety.
DT Johnathan Hankins: two years, $8.5 million with $5.25 million guaranteed
Hankins was a safe play to continue to shore up the nose tackle position on a very reasonable deal. Coming off a solid year in 2019, the Raiders made the move to make sure their run defense stayed solid through the next few years. Though he hasn’t ever been able to reach the level of dominance he played at in New York or Indianapolis in his time with the Raiders, Hankins has been a solid player, accruing 72 run stops and starting almost every game over the past three seasons for the Raiders.
Verdict: Neither a hit nor miss
S Erik Harris: two years, $6.5 million with $2.5 million guaranteed
Erik Harris was an upside play for the new Raiders regime. Coming off a year in which he played very well as a spot starter at the safety position (most notably a dominant outing against Philip Rivers and the Chargers), the Raiders brought back the safety on a cheap contract to fight for a starting role. Harris played well as a full-time starting free safety in 2019 before struggling mightily throughout 2020, leading to his departure.
Verdict: Neither a hit nor miss
OG Denzelle Good: one year, $1.8 million with $500,000 guaranteed
After a couple of solid starts as Gabe Jackson’s replacement in 2018, Good was able to earn a roster spot in 2019 and then a starting job for the Raiders in 2020. Unfortunately, Good had a lot of struggles as the starting left guard, giving up 29 pressures on the season. He missed the 2021 season with an ACL injury and looks to be a backup in the future.
Verdict: Neither a hit nor miss
K Daniel Carlson: RFA tender
The Raiders picked up the former Vikings fifth-round pick off waivers in his rookie season and he played well enough to earn the job as the new kicker in Oakland. However, Carlson had his share of struggles in 2019, missing seven field goals. Since then though, Carlson has been able to turn it around in 2020 and became one of the best kickers in the league in 2021, with three huge game-winning field goals down the stretch. Carlson also signed a four year, $18.4 million extension in December.
Big Offseason Moves:
Raiders trade a third and fifth-round pick for WR Antonio Brown
Oh, what could have been. The Raiders had to be overjoyed when the team announced that they had won the Antonio Brown sweepstakes for the reasonable price of a Day 2 and Day 3 pick. The Raiders then signed Brown to a three year, $50.1 million extension with $30.1 million guaranteed.
But what happened afterward is unfortunately nothing but a frustrating saga. Brown would go on to miss most of training camp, threatening to retire from football if he had to wear a new helmet. Brown verbally assaulted Mike Mayock and was eventually cut by the Raiders. After a short stint with the Patriots, Brown would miss most of the 2019 season before returning to the league in 2020.
Raiders trade OG Kelechi Osemele to the Jets for a fifth-round pick
After a rough season in 2018, the Raiders decided to trade their former All-Pro left guard to the Jets in order to save money. Osemele only played in three games for the Jets due to injury and would play in five games for the Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs in 2020. The Raiders would end up trading away the fifth-rounder, but saving $10 million has to be seen as a win for the Raiders in hindsight.
Raiders sign OT Trent Brown to a four year, $66 million deal with $36.75 million guaranteed
After an extremely difficult season for their offensive line, the Raiders attempted to shore it up by making Patriots tackle Trent Brown the highest paid tackle in the NFL. When he played, Brown did shore up the team’s pass protection, as one of the better pass blockers in the league. But injuries kept Brown from being worth his contract for the Raiders, as he would miss the final five games of 2019 and only play five games in 2020 before being traded back to the Patriots in 2021 for a fifth-round pick.
Raiders sign S Lamarcus Joyner to a four year, $42 million deal with $21.3 million guaranteed
After two back-to-back good seasons for Joyner with the Rams, there was a huge market for the free safety in free agency. The Raiders decided to give Joyner a big contract to come to Oakland. However, when the season started, the Raiders decided to move Joyner from his natural position at free safety to instead play slot corner. At the new position, Joyner struggled mightily in both 2019 and 2020 and would eventually be cut by the team after the 2020 season.
Raiders sign WR Tyrell Williams to a four year, $44.3 million deal with $21 million guaranteed
The Raiders decided to sign Williams, one of the hotter names on the market, as a bigger-bodied complement to Brown. Williams had worked as the second option to Keenan Allen for a few years in Los Angeles and many thought he could get back to his 2016 production (1,059 yards and seven touchdowns).
Though he was able to get off to a hot start with the Raiders with two 90+ yard games and five touchdowns in the first five weeks, Williams was only able to be moderately productive in Oakland and missed the entire 2020 season with a torn labrum. He was cut by the Raiders and signed with the Lions in 2021 but again missed most of the season with injuries.
Raiders cut OT tackle Donald Penn
After missing most of the 2018 season with injury and Trent Brown being brought in as his replacement, the writing was on the wall for the former Pro Bowl tackle. The Raiders cut him to save money and he would go on to sign with Washington and play well in 15 starts. Penn would not play football again after 2019.
Verdict: Neither a hit nor a miss
Raiders sign OG Richie Incognito to a one year deal
After a two-year hiatus from football, Gruden and Mayock decided to take a chance on the former Pro-Bowler in Incognito, and it paid off. Incognito played very well as the starting guard, especially as a pass blocker, and helped the Raiders to become one of the better offensive lines in football in 2019.
2019 NFL Draft:
Round 1, Pick 4: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
Ferrell was not seen as a top-five pick in the draft coming into it, but Gruden and Mayock fell in love with the high-character national champion out of Clemson instead of QB Josh Allen, who was selected three picks later. Through his first three years, Ferrell’s playing time has progressively dwindled, both due to injuries and an undefined role, and he’s only been able to accrue 10 sacks. He showed flashes of brilliance in a few games in 2020, but he has yet to put it all together in the NFL. Maybe he will figure it out with new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, but it hasn’t looked great so far.
Verdict: Looks like a miss
Round 1, Pick 24: Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
The Raiders felt a need at running back coming into the draft and decided to draft Josh Jacobs, an intriguing prospect out of Alabama. Through his first three seasons, he has proven to be a good runner and has added balance to the passing game with an ability to consistently carry the ball and break tackles, earning Pro Bowl honors in 2020. However, his production has been somewhat hampered by the regression of the Raiders’ offensive line over the past couple of years. It should be interesting to see what he can do if Ziegler can rebuild the offensive line over the next few seasons.
Round 1, Pick 27: Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State
Abram was brought in for Oakland to be the hard-hitting enforcer at the strong safety position on defense. Unfortunately, he was only able to play in one game before missing the rest of his rookie season with an injury. Abram was able to get back on the field in 2020 but did not play well at all, with his aggressive style getting him into trouble much too often. In 2021, he showed flashes of development, especially down the stretch of the season, but so far, it has not looked great for Abram.
Round 2, Pick 40: Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson
Mullen was a bit of a reach at the 40th pick out of Clemson, but Gruden and Mayock continued their trend of drafting players out of blue-blood schools. The cornerback earned a starting spot as a rookie, but, through his first two seasons, did not play very well. In 2021, he missed most of the season with a foot injury. A player like Elgton Jenkins, who was selected with the 44th pick, would have been a huge asset for an aging interior offensive line.
Round 4, Pick 106: Maxx Crosby, EDGE, Eastern Michigan
Crosby was a little-known commodity out of Eastern Michigan the Raiders felt was worth taking in the fourth round. However, he burst onto the scene and was able to accrue 11 sacks as a rookie. After a bit of a sophomore slump, Crosby improved his technique as a pass rusher and became one of the best defensive players in the NFL, racking up 108 pressures and 11 sacks in his third year, and earning second-team All-Pro honors. The former fourth-round pick is now the best player on the Las Vegas defense and should be seen as a building block for years to come.
Round 4, Pick 129: Isaiah Johnson, CB, Houston
The Raiders took a shot on the long corner out of Houston in the fourth round but injuries kept him off the field through his first two seasons. He was cut by Las Vegas before the 2021 season.
Round 4, Pick 137: Foster Moreau, TE, LSU
Moreau was drafted out of LSU as a tight end with athletic upside, however, Darren Waller’s breakout kept him to only limited playing time through his first two seasons. Moreau saw more snaps in 2021 with Waller dealing with injuries, but he wasn’t very impressive over the course of the season.
Round 5, Pick 149: Hunter Renfrow, WR, Clemson
Renfrow was seen as a potential slot receiver after a storied career at Clemson, and, over his first three seasons, has gotten better and better. In 2021, he became one of the best players on the team, finishing the season with 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns. He will likely be a huge focal point of the Josh McDaniels offense.
Round 7, Pick 230: Quinton Bell, EDGE, Prairie View A&M
Bell did not make the team in 2019 and was released by midseason.
Notable Undrafted Free Agents
The Raiders were able to salvage a rough draft in 2019 by three key undrafted free agent signings. Fullback Alec Ingold has been solid through his first three seasons as a Raider. Andre James is the team’s starting center and a good player. Punter A.J. Cole was arguably the best punter in the league this past season.
The volatility of the 2019 offseason is a huge reason why Mayock didn’t keep his job in 2022 and is emblematic of the entire Gruden era: a lot of unorthodox risks with a couple of hits but a lot of bad misses. Spending money on mid-tier or off-field questionable players in free agency can come back to bite you, and going against the consensus in the draft more often hurts than helps. Hopefully, Ziegler and McDaniels can learn from the mistakes of 2019.
Share This Article
Support independent news coverage by sharing on your platforms