The important part—for everyone in the organization—is what that talent improvement will get the team in the win column this season.
Of course, a number of factors play a role in a given team’s success over the course of a season, leaving a relatively sizable gap between projected ceilings and floors.
Here is a look at the best- and worst-case scenarios for the Raiders' 2014 season.
The Ceiling: (9-7)
There is a very real possibility that the Silver and Black make significant and immediate improvements over years past, possibly even allowing them to compete for a playoff spot at season’s end.
Impressive hauls in both free agency and the draft have addressed a number of problem areas on the roster, allowing the potential for former positions of need to become strengths of the team moving forward.
For example, the front office’s intentions of upgrading in the trenches on both sides of the ball have become clear over the past few months.
The offensive line, despite losing Jared Veldheer early in free agency, looks to have improved as a whole, adding projected starters in Donald Penn, Austin Howard and Gabe Jackson.
Such upgrades could push starters from 2013 into backup roles, immediately improving the group’s depth in the process.
On the defensive front, where the Raiders staff did their most important work, additions of Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, and Khalil Mack will go a long way toward addressing a pass rush that needed help in the worst way.
Of course, the addition of Matt Schaub, should he return to his pre-2013 play, would give the offense the kind of veteran leader it needs throughout the season as well.
Because many areas still lack some depth, the Raiders reaching their ceiling for the 2014 season will depend a lot upon players remaining healthy.
If they can do that, and the now-veteran team can come together in a short period of time, the Silver and Black should remain quite competitive throughout the season, and a 9-7 record could put them in the thick of the AFC playoff picture down the stretch.
The Floor: (4-12)
When looking at the Raiders’ floor, regardless of the talent added, one of the biggest things to consider is the schedule they are set to face.
Playing each of the teams from the NFC West and the AFC East, and of course two games against each of the three 2013 playoff teams from the AFC West, is no easy task.
With the London game in September, and several east coast trips throughout the year, the travel demands of that schedule will certainly play a factor as well.
Although the Raiders certainly look like a different team after just one offseason, this would be a tough schedule for any team, let alone one in the midst of a complete rebuild.
Yes, a number of key additions were made over the course of this offseason, and the team’s talent level is quite a bit better. However, it is important to remember just how far away this Raiders team was last season.
Should injuries hit areas in which the depth remains relatively thin, like the secondary and defensive line, the defense could really start to struggle as a whole.
Add in the difficulties that teams can sometimes experience with so much roster turnover in a short period of time, and the Raiders still have a number of factors working against them.
If things go far worse than expected, the Raiders’ floor should be a 4-12 record that has become all too common over the past decade.
Such a result would make for quite the disappointment, likely having the futures of both the coaching staff and front office put into doubt moving forward.
Overall, the Raiders’ busy offseason will likely come with greater expectations, but the team is certainly headed in the right direction either way.
Should they manage to avoid costly injuries throughout, all factors considered, we can likely expect a season somewhere in the middle, and just under the .500 mark.
As much as a 7-9 season would come as a disappointment to some, it is important to remember that the rebuilding of this Raiders franchise is indeed a process.
While it wouldn’t get them to the playoffs, that kind of season would more than likely earn the current staff at least another year with the team, maintaining the kind of continuity that will be important moving forward.
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