With the season over and a week to let the tough ending sink in, it’s a good time to sit back and take an inventory of the Oakland Raiders and prepare for the offseason ahead. First thing’s first, a to-do list for a team that after over a decade of wandering in the desert has finally found it’s way back to the playoffs.
The Raiders may not have as many holes to fill as in years past but that doesn’t mean they won’t be busy this offseason. So let’s take a look at what the team needs to get done before training camp:
- Round Out the Coaching Staff
The Raiders decided not to keep offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and chose to promote quarterbacks coach Todd Downing to the position. They also decided to part ways with defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson but have not yet filled that position. If the Raiders are going to make anymore moves on the coaching staff, that should be one of the first things that gets done. And it should be done within the next week or two.
- Design the Offense
With a new offensive coordinator comes a new offense. Given the fact that Downing is coming from within the Raiders, I wouldn’t expect much to change with the offense stylistically, but there will still be changes. Downing will want to add his own style to the scheme and given the fact that Musgrave landed with a rival team, he will definitely want to change terminology and tweak some looks that give away certain plays. Ideally, Downing will sit down with Derek Carr and work together with his star quarterback to develop an offense that suits his skills the best.
- Extend Derek Carr’s Contract
One of the big hurdles the Oakland Raiders will face in the near future is balancing a cap while re-signing studs like Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. Not to mention guys like Gabe Jackson and this offseason’s biggest free agent for the team, Latavius Murray. But before any of that, you have to lock down the franchise quarterback, no one else is nearly as important. Extending Carr will give the Raiders a road map for how they are going to deal with the rest of their young talent.
- Re-evaluate the Entire Roster
Derek Carr is an obvious decision for this team, re-sign by any means necessary. But for other players, the decision isn’t so obvious. The Raiders need to sit down and re-evaluate the entire roster, from top to bottom, not just the free agents. There may be some players who should be cut, whether as cap casualties or simply because they aren’t living up to what the team wants from them. There will be players the team should re-sign and some who they should let walk in free agency. This is a Raiders team that took a big step forward in 2016, but they can’t afford to just rest on their laurels. Every part of the roster that can be upgraded, should be upgraded and making decisions on that starts now.
- Grade and Re-Grade Draft Prospects
This will be the first time in Reggie McKenzie’s career with the Raiders that the team won’t be a high draft pick. Yes, I realize that McKenzie didn’t have a first round pick early in his tenure but my point is that this is the first time the team will be drafting from a winning slot rather than a losing one. That tends to make things more difficult, not just in the first round, but in every subsequent round as well. But drafting well now is as important as it was when the team was all but devoid of talent. If the Raiders want to remain in good shape with regards to the salary cap, a key way of doing that is by drafting well. Young players are cheaper and even if not ready to play on day one, can be an upgrade to depth right away. The Raiders have made the playoffs and now it’s about hunting a title and this draft could play a huge role in making the next step towards that goal.
- Create Free Agent Game Plan
This one seems obvious but it’s a little bit different for the Raiders this go-round. In years past, the Raiders had a ton of holes that needed to be filled and as such, had to rely heavily on free agency. But with much of the cap in future years being spent on re-signing players, free agency may not be anywhere near as big of a time for Oakland. And with McKenzie coming from Green Bay where free agents are rarely added, we might see the Raiders go into hybernation in free agency. Either way, now that the team is in a much better position than when McKenzie took over, it’s time to really decide how free agency will be handled in the years to come.