What's Next for the Oakland Raiders After Initial Wave of Free-Agent Signings?

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What's Next for the Oakland Raiders After Initial Wave of Free-Agent Signings?
Ben Margot/Associated Press

Over the last decade, being a fan of the Oakland Raiders has been a long, brutal endeavor.

Still, through all of the chaos and disappointment, if you flip on the television on any given Sunday, you'll always hear the crowd roar with conviction as their beloved Raiders take the field.

That's just how they're programmed.

Talking about keeping the faith during tough times, diehard Raiders fan Jaime Meza told me, "Hope dies last."

Witnessing the end of Bo Jackson's career, the "Tuck Rule" and the whole JaMarcus Russell debacle has toughened the skin of fans like Jaime.

This offseason, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie finally has a chance to bring a much-needed course correction to this historic franchise.

Using a lofty amount of cap space, per Over the Cap, to bring in a band of veteran players, McKenzie has tried to enhance this roster with leadership and production.

Unfortunately in this league, no matter how many moves you make, the job of a general manager is never quite finished.

Looking ahead to what else has to get done this offseason, it's time to find out what's next for McKenzie and the Raiders after the initial wave of free-agent signings.

 

Draft an Impact Player

Though the roster looks a lot better than it did just a couple of weeks back, there are still plenty of needs that can be addressed during the upcoming draft.

Matt Schaub's arrival in Oakland, per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, could throw a wrench in the plans of McKenzie going after a franchise quarterback with the fifth overall pick.

During a conference call with reporters—via Raiders.com—head coach Dennis Allen indicated that not only is Schaub going to be the team's starter for the 2014 season, but he believes the former Houston Texans QB is more than just a one-year solution.

If the decision to secure a franchise quarterback gets prolonged, McKenzie has to make sure this team drafts an impact player in the first round.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Watkins is a guy who lights it up on film.

Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, arguably the most dynamic offensive player in this year's class, would be a major difference-maker for an offense looking to turn heads in 2014.

Defensively, the two biggest agents of change on the board are South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack out of Buffalo.

The narrative surrounding Clowney has been well documented in the media.

A once-in-a-generation athletic marvel, the only things holding him back from becoming a dominant football player at the next level are the question marks surrounding his maturity.

On the other side of the spectrum, Mack has transcended expectations and become one of the hottest names in this year's draft class over the last couple of months.

Turn on the tape, and you begin to understand why.

Otto Kitsinger/Associated Press

Mack is freaky good. He's explosive, versatile and when he gets rolling, this young man can dominate from just about anywhere on a football field.

NFL Media Analyst Mike Mayock is such a big fan of Mack that he proclaimed he would draft the Buffalo Bull No. 1 overall on KFAN 100.3.

Regardless of what direction McKenzie decides to go in, finding a core playmaker to build around will help this coaching staff finally start to forge a winning culture.

 

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Find a Solution at Running Back

Considering his extensive history with injuries, the team's decision to re-sign Darren McFadden may have come as a surprise to fans.

But when Rashad Jennings packed his bags and left town to join the New York Giants, the move to strike a deal with McFadden started to make sense.

Familiarity with an organization goes a long way. In McFadden's case, spending the last seven seasons in a Raiders uniform gives him a unique sense of how this team operates.

Unless you believe in the talents of second-year running back Latavius Murray—who spent the entire 2013 season on injured reserve—this year's draft seems like a logical place for the Raiders backfield to find answers.

The way the current draft is shaking out, most of the "top-flight" running backs are all projected to fall somewhere between the second and fourth round.

That makes pursuing a talented player like Bishop Sankey out of Washington a much easier pill to swallow.

Giving him his stamp of approval, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller wrote:

In a deep running back class, it's easy to overlook players. Bishop Sankey is a guy I keep going back to as a top-tier, Day 1 impact you can bet on.

He's fast—4.49 officially with a 1.59-second 10-yard split—and has the breakaway ability on the edge. Sankey can be a game-changer, and in a class of running backs who are all very similar, he stands out from the crowd.

Adding a guy like Sankey makes all the sense in the world.

Between the concerns over McFadden's durability and the uncertainty surrounding Murray, this is a great time to draft a potential elite running back talent on Day 2 of the draft.

 

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The End of the Terrelle Pryor Era

Terrelle Pryor may never have an illustrious NFL career. But what the dual-threat quarterback out of Ohio State will always be remembered for is being Al Davis' final draft pick.

Talking to reporters at the NFL annual meeting (h/t Marc Sessler of NFL.com), McKenzie acknowledged that Pryor wants out of Oakland.

"Terrelle wants to start so bad," McKenzie said. "I'll visit with him. We'll talk to him. ... We'll see next week or so how he feels about his future."

Can you blame him?

Pryor's career has undergone its fair share of turbulence since being taken in the 2011 supplemental draft.

Without a stellar supporting cast to lean on, the former Buckeye has struggled to develop into an adequate passer.

Over the 14 games he's started in the last two seasons, he's completed just 56.3 percent of his passes for 1,953 yards, nine touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Those struggles have led to the organization's disenchantment with Pryor. Talking about how the coaching staff views him right now, Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times/Bay Area News Group said:

Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Tuesday that (Matt) McGloin is ahead of Pryor on a depth chart that also features veteran Trent Edwards. In other words, Pryor is viewed as the No. 3 quarterback, at best, three months after he started the Raiders final game of the 2013 season.

No matter how they decide to cut ties, at this point, closing the chapter on the Pryor era in Oakland is best for both parties involved.

 

Chase a Franchise Quarterback

In his weekly column, MMQB.com's Peter King spoke about the troubling quarterback situation that has haunted the Raiders throughout the years.

Examining just how bad things have gotten, King wrote:

In the wake of the Matt Schaub trade from Houston to Oakland on Friday, and assuming Schaub starts at least one game for the Raiders in 2014, this will be the sixth consecutive year a non-homegrown quarterback will start for the Raiders.

In order: Charlie Frye (2009), Bruce Gradkowski (2009, ’10), Jason Campbell (2010, ’11), Carson Palmer (2011, ’12) and Matt Flynn (2013). If Schaub does start, that means six imported quarterbacks starting in six seasons.

The constant influx of journeymen signal-callers needs to stop. Raiders fans deserve more than having to settle for mediocrity when it comes to the most important position in the National Football League.

Despite all of the discussion involving Schaub, there still is an ounce of hope.

David White of The Fresno Bee has linked the Raiders to Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.

Gary Kazanjian/Associated Press

"I hear the Raiders have a massive crush on the former Fresno State quarterback, but not a No. 5 overall pick sort of crush," White said. "They're more inclined to trade down and take Carr later, which means the Vikings would have to pass on Carr at No. 8."

Whether the Carr narrative turns out to be true or not remains to be seen.

That doesn't change the fact that grooming an authentic homegrown quarterback is what this franchise needs more than anything else.

 

All NFL free-agency information and stats courtesy of NFL.com unless noted otherwise.  

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