Every year, ESPN gives grades for each team’s offseason moves. From re-signing players to free agency to the draft, each team’s offseason is examined and then graded. Last year, ESPN said the Oakland Raiders had one of the best offseasons of any team in the league and awarded them an A grade for their efforts.
But now that the regular season is over, ESPN has gone back and re-graded each team’s offseason and downgraded the Raiders to a B.
The analysis provided by ESPN is not very in depth and is only two paragraphs long. They do praise the signings of Kelechi Osemele, Bruce Irvin and Reggie Nelson as well as the additions of DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. But they note that the defense was not improved nearly as much as the Raiders were hoping and pointed to a lackluster draft class as a major reason why.
ESPN notes that of the 2,201 snaps taken by rookies in 2016, three quarters of those snaps were taken on the defensive side of the ball and without a whole lot of production to show for it.
When it comes down to it, the argument that ESPN is making is that the Raiders set out last offseason to upgrade their defense. They added a number of free agent additions and focused much of their draft on the defensive side of the ball. But despite the attempt to upgrade the defensive side of the ball, the results were not very impressive.
While ESPN’s logic is understandable, I feel as though it’s a bit flawed. Sure, the Raiders set out to improve the defense and it didn’t improve by much. But there is no accounting for injuries or coaching, it’s merely an assumption that since the defense didn’t improve vastly, the offseason must not have been as good as it first appeared.
The problem with that is, it ignores the additions who proved extremely valuable. Sure, ESPN notes the high quality additions, but they don’t give them their fair due. Kelechi Osemele might have been the best guard in the NFL this season. Bruce Irvin finished with a rather impressive stat line full of forced fumbles and sacks. Reggie Nelson struggled at times but at the end of the day was awarded with a Pro Bowl berth. And both DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard had huge years for the Raiders, contributing in numerous ways.
No, Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun weren’t as good as the Raiders hoped. And no, Sean Smith wasn’t the lockdown corner they had hoped he was. But no team has a perfect offseason and the Raiders have a whole lot more positives than negatives, and big time positives at that.