To call last season for the Las Vegas Raiders tumultuous would be under-selling the hardships this team faced as they reached the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
From a fatal car crash that sent their number one receiver, Henry Ruggs, to face over 50 years in prison; to exposed racist, misogynistic emails that sent head coach Jon Gruden out of town, no one would have expected the Raiders to keep their season alive long enough to earn a wild card spot after beating the division rival Los Angeles Chargers in the final week of the regular season.
That they reached the playoffs in spite of these unique circumstances shows that this roster is ready to climb the mountain. They just needed a few pieces to reach that threshold.
The most obvious void in the offense was wide receiver with Ruggs essentially ending his career after making the stupid, awful decision to get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol. The Raiders had been tied to a possible trade with superstar wide receiver Davante Adams for years because of the friendship between Adams and Raiders quarterback Derek Carr . Their relationship goes back to their Fresno State days when the two played together between 2012-2013.
It almost didn’t seem like it would happen though, especially after Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers signed on for another year. Rodgers and Adams had developed their own rapport over the years and it was assumed that if Rodgers was staying, Adams would surely stay as well.
Thank god for the Raiders that didn’t happen.
Other essential roster moves made were on the other side of the ball. The Raiders locked up their pass-rush superstar Maxx Crosby for 4 years, $99 million and replaced Yannick Ngakoue with former Cardinal Chandler Jones on a 3 year, $51 million respectively.
Securing the pass-rush was a huge, sound move for the Raiders considering that as of this writing, their secondary is average at best. Names like Trayvon Mullen Jr, Tre’von Moehrig, and Rock Ya-Sin don’t strike fear into the hearts of opposing quarterbacks.
Speaking of quarterbacks, it’s encouraging to see the Raiders making these bold moves because this division got A LOT HARDER.
A division that already had Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert added Russell Wilson into the mix when the Denver Broncos traded for the superstar quarterback. The Chargers made upgrades of their own by grabbing former Raider and 2016 Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack and ball-hawk corner J.C. Jackson. The Chiefs are still the chiefs; one simply cannot dismiss Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and that quarterback of theirs…
It needs to be pointed out that the Broncos traded for Russell Wilson without giving up a large chunk of their offense. Only Noah Fant was kicked out of town on the offensive side of the ball for them.
It will not be easy, as both this division and the rest of the AFC got stronger (at least on paper) but the Raiders have done an excellent job in keeping up with this wild free agency arms race and have put themselves in Super Bowl discussions, however unlikely it may be.
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