The Oakland Raiders are coming off of their second straight 4-12 season during the tenure of general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen. The are set to begin year three of their rebuild, which is the most important, as they finally escaped the salary cap hell they were put in by the previous regime. With roughly $60 million to spend in free cap space, the Raiders were extremely busy in free agency.
The Raiders struck out on several of the big free agents early on in the free agency period. They also lost their own top two free agents in Jared Veldheer and Lamarr Houston. After the rough start, they were able to make a strong push late and were able to bring in several proven players.
Offensively, they signed running back Maurice Jones-Drew and wide receiver James Jones to give the Raiders two more offensive weapons. They also traded a late round pick to the Houston Texans for veteran quarterback Matt Schaub. The addition of Schaub gives them a steady hand at the quarterback position that they have not had in quite awhile.
Defensively, the team looked to improve their pass rush and the secondary. The front-seven got an infusion to their pass rush with the addition of some of the most prolific pass rushers in the recent history. They added defensive ends Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley to give them an edge rushing presence they have not had since Derrick Burgess was terrorizing opposing quarterbacks in the early 2000′s. In the secondary, the stole the starting corner backs from their cross bay rivals in Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. Brown gives them a solid coverage corner on the outside and Rogers gives them versatility to play outside and in the slot.
The moves to bring in the veteran talent has given the roster a major talent boost and a set of players with a championship pedigree. This should help to create a culture built on success instead of failure that McKenzie is trying to implement. These roster moves have a lot of fans and people around the organization excited about the upcoming season, especially returning safety Charles Woodson.
In a recent interview with Bay Area radio station, 95.7 The Game, Woodson was asked if the roster moves made during free agency were enough to make the Raiders a playoff team.
“No doubt about it, I don’t see why not,” Woodson said. “I ain’t looking four or five years down the road. I fully expect to be in the playoffs this year.”
Woodson was highly optimistic about the Raiders chances to turn it around in a single season. He was not alone in his assumption. Fullback Marcel Reece believes they will not only make the playoffs, but be the team that takes the division.
— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) April 3, 2014
Another player decided to throw his hat in the ring and predict instant success for the Raiders. Newly signed running back Jones-Drew believes the Raiders are in “win-now” mode and thinks they have what it takes to bring home the Lombardi Trophy.
MJD: “You can definitely (make the Super Bowl with Matt Schaub at QB)” #Raiders
— Mad Dog Sports Radio (@MadDogRadio) April 2, 2014
Talk is cheap when the new roster has not even taken a practice snap, but do the Raiders have a realistic shot at making the playoffs?
The new roster has a shot to be much better than the previous seasons, if they are able to come together. Talent is important in the NFL, but team chemistry is equally important. The infamous Philadelphia Eagles “Dream-Team” is evidence that you just can’t bring in a bunch big name players and find instant success. So, being able to gel quickly is highly important to the Raiders’ chances at making noise this season.
The offense has the most weapons at their disposal since the Raiders were among the league’s elite offenses. They finally added a quarterback that would be able to take advantage of the weapons at hand. The biggest piece is the improvement of the offensive line, which has being horrid the last few years. This should lead to the offense being more balanced than in previous years, which should make it more difficult for opposing defenses to defend.
The defense has also received a major face lift, as well. The linebacker core was a solid unit last season, but the defensive line and secondary were major weak links. The Raiders defensive front is gearing to a fierce pass rush, which has been a major key for the most successful teams in the NFL. The new found pass rush, along with the improved secondary should be enough to prevent the Raiders from giving up the numerous big plays.
The biggest hurdle to the Raiders playoff hopes is their schedule. The Raiders are slated to play the toughest schedule in the NFL, as their 16 opponents combined for a 148-108 record. The schedule includes games against the NFL’s best division the NFC West and a strong AFC East. The Raiders would need at least 9 to 10 wins to secure at least a wild card position.
The Raiders simply do not look like a 10 win team, especially with their absolutely brutal schedule. While many players believe the Raiders have the look of a playoff team, the facts point to a team that will be on the outside looking in.