Hue Is Building a Bully
Hue Jackson reminded us that "We're building a bully" in Oakland. He wants his team to be aggressive and he wants it to dominate.
It is likely that "Coach" Davis will be making many of the moves during this off-season, but Mr Davis is currently high on Hue Jackson, so is likely to be lead by his thinking.
There has been a lot written about who Oakland should retain and who they should let go, but matters are greatly complicated by the Collective Bargaining Agreement coming to an end in March.
It will be a tough job even before the regular season in September. In the following slides, I highlight how Jackson can plot his way through the choppy waters.
Run DMC had a breakout year
The Raiders have at least 13 starters under contract who they will want to retain and nearly 30 players in total.
Starters on Offense: Jason Campbell, Darren McFadden, Jacoby Ford, Chaz Schilens, Jared Veldheer
Starters on Defense: Lamarr Houston, Matt Shaughnessy, Tommy Kelly, Rolando McClain, Quentin Groves, Tyvon Branch
Starters on Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski, Shane Lechler
Back Ups: Nick Miller, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy, Bruce Campbell, Manase Tonga, Brandon Myers, Cooper Carlisle, Trevor Scott, Des Bryant, Travis Goethel, Jeremy Ware, Stevie Brown, Walter McFadden, Mike Mitchell, Chris Johnson
With a solid defensive line anchored by Rolando McClain, Oakland will again be very physical on defense.
On the offense side Campbell-McFadden-Ford gives the Raiders the big play ability
Seymour will still be a key weapon for the Silver and Black
No news is currently bad news.
However, some deal will be done. It's just too important for too many people for the NFL to not start on time in September. Some deal will get done and some point. With every week that goes past I think it is becoming more likely there will be a short interim solution to ensure we can an NFL season.
A quite plausible outcome is that the rules for 2010 are re-visited, meaning each team has one Franchise Tag and players with four years or less are restricted in their movements.
This is excellent news for the Oakland Raiders.
Hue Jackson (or most likely Al Davis) can use the tag on Richard Seymour as they did in 2010. The interesting thing is that Seymour has been injury prone of late and may not want to have a one year contract. At this stage of his career he will not want to hold-out so it makes a longer term deal much more likely. Oakland can tie-up their defensive spearhead for the next few years.
This form of CBA is also good news as the Raiders can match any offers for Zach Miller, Michael Bush and Mario Henderson, all of whom they will want to retain. Again, with the restrictions these players may look at longer term deals whilst their sun is in the ascendancy.
The Raiders have picked up two more starters and an excellent change of pace back.
Wimbley had a career season in Oakland
Oakland will have a number of Free Agents who will be free to leave under almost any CBA. Some of these, the Raiders will need to see back in Silver and Black.
Kamerion Wimbley (LB) had a career year with Oakland in 2010 and his nine sacks were a team high. His flexibility and in particular his ability to get to the quarterback gave Oakland a different dimension at linebacker this year. The Raiders gave him a home but will need to again splash the cash to retain this essential cog.
Marcel Reece (FB) has been a revelation this year at the fullback position. His blocking has improved and he can be un-coverable as a receiver. Al Davis eulogised about him during his recent press conference, so I see no reason why he will not get a lucrative long term deal.
John Henderson (DT) has had injury problems this year, but was a key man in the defensive tackle rotation, so is likely to be retained, if he wants to stay.
Rock Cartwright (FB) was sensational on special teams and the Raiders must lock him up if Jacoby Ford is going to continue running back kick-offs and Shane Lechler is going to continue to be the leading punter in the league.
Daniel Loper (OG) is under-rated. He performed well when Gallery was injured and will be available at much less cost. With the Raiders re-emphasising power, Loper could well do a valuable job at guard.
If all this comes to pass, Oakland will have nearly 40 players under contract, including all but seven starters. Most of these moves are likely and this is an excellent starting off point to get into the key areas of free agency and the draft.
Asomugha is now a free agent
The Raiders have a very talented set of defensive backs, but how many of them will be back?
Nnamdi Asomugha and Michael Huff are former first round picks by the Oakland Raiders. They are both starters and had excellent 2010 seasons and both are now free agents.
In addition, Stanford Routt (the starter opposite Asomugha at corner back) is also on the market.
Given a choice, I'm sure Oakland would choose to bring back all of these three players because they can all help the team win. In reality, it's going to be tough to bring them all back.
What is in Oakland's favour is that Champ Bailey, Ronde Barber and Antonio Cromartie are also free agents, so there is lots of competition for those free agent dollars.
The key is of course Asomugha. He is perhaps the highest paid Raider, despite his role of shadowing opposition wide receivers. I'm sure "coach Davis" will want him back but not at any price. I suspect Oakland will table an offer in the region of $8 million a year for three years. It's then up-to the other NFL teams whether they want to trump this offer. I suspect nobody will and #21 will be back.
Oakland are likely to retain both Huff and Routt if Asomugha leaves, but if he stays, then I see this as an either/or situation.
Rookie Stevie Brown has shown flashes as a free safety and Mike Mitchell is still under-used as a hitter. With Hue Jackson wanting to raise the intimidation, I expect Mitchell to get more game time. This means moving Huff to corner or letting him walk.
I would be in favor of trying to retain Huff's services and giving Routt a low ball offer as a back up
Veldheer is the only certainty on the o-line
"He's a zone purist and I'm not". So said Mr Davis about Tom Cable.
This spells the end of the ZBS in Oakland. We are going to see a return to the power running game in 2011. Therefore there is likely to be a complete overhaul of the offensive line.
Robert Gallery has been the stand-out player for the past two seasons and is a former first round pick by Al Davis, so will be considered for a recall. However, Oakland have paid Gallery as a left tackle and he is now an injury-prone left guard. Yes, I'd love to see him back in Silver and Black, but he may follow his mentor Tom Cable to Seattle.
Jared Veldheer had an excellent rookie season, despite giving up 10 sacks. He got better as the season wore on and made the all-rookie team. His is very coachable and will command a tackle spot in 2011.
Samson Satele is a free agent and has been grown into the role of centre. Whether he has grown enough for Hue Jackson is another point, as he is undersized and liable to be dominated by the bigger nose tackles who play in the 3-4 defenses.
Cooper Carlisle is still under contract and is in the twilight of his career. He's likely to be a back up if he makes the cut.
Bruce Campbell the work-out warrior (how many times have we heard that?) was a bit of an enigma in 2010 - nobody knows if he can play. Tom Cable certainly did not think so, but he is likely to get the chance in 2011.
As I have already mentioned, I think it is likely that Loper and Henderson are retained for depth, although Loper could start at guard until Campbell is ready. Langston Walker could be retained for his size, but I don't see him starting for a championship o-line.
The upshot is that the Raiders will need to recruit new faces to the offensive line. The aging Matt Light and Logan Mankins are both free agents and would bring leadership and knowledge to the group, but they would not come cheap!
Jared Gaither is someone Oakland should target. He finished the 2010 season on injured reserve and lost his left tackle spot to Michael Oher for the Ravens. His is a beast at 6' 9" and 340 lbs and could be the anchor the Raiders need at left tackle, moving Veldheer over to the right side.
The centre position is looking a bit bare, but the perfect solution is to draft Stefan Wisniewski from Penn State in the second round, following in the footsteps of his uncle Steve, who has a great servant to the Raiders.
So my offensive line would be Gaither, Gallery (or Mankins), Wisniewski, Loper (or Campbell) and Veldheer. Power, youth and brute strength
#85 would be an interesting veteran addition
Al Davis loves his veteran re-treads. Chad Ochocinco has praised coach Jackson, saying he was the best coach he ever had at wide receiver. It could happen.as Oakland has a talented but raw set of wide outs at the moment.
The Raiders also need to add more depth at linebacker. I would like to see Thomas Howard retained, but he is likely to be gone along with Ricky Brown. With no likely free agents, Oakland must seek help at linebacker from the draft.
Hue Jackson will install Jason Campbell as the undisputed starter at quarter back, but what happens behind him will be interesting. Frye and Boller both have a shot at the number two position and I'm sure Al Davis will look for a diamond in the rough in the draft.
Hue has much to ponder
So there is much to do, but Hue Jackson with help from "coach" Davis can set the Raiders house in order.
An offense that reads J Campbell, D McFadden/M Bush, M Reece, J Ford, C Ochocinco, Z Miller, J Gaither, R Gallery, S Wisnieski, D Loper, J Veldheer would certainly rack up the points in Oakland.
The defense will be a largely similar Lamarr Houston Tommy Kelly, Richard Seymour, Matt Shaughnessy, K Wimbley, R McClain, Q Groves, N Asomugha, T Branch, S Brown/M Mitchell, M Huff and will continue to strike fear into the opposition under a new defensive coordinator.
With the same special teamers this Oakland Raiders are going to be a bully and they are going to win the AFC West. Do not take my word for it. Take it from our new head coach.