The Oakland Raiders offense was among the best in the league last season so it won’t take much to keep them at or above that level. One of the things the Raiders need to do in order to maintain or improve the offense is account for Latavius Murray‘s role.
Reports are that the Raiders will indeed let Murray walk in free agency. With Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington on the roster, the Raiders don’t need a bellcow starting back. Instead, they just need a compliment to the two smaller backs. That means a big bodied, short yardage back.
That’s right, we need the 2017 version of Zack Crockett.
We won’t find a new Crockett but here’s a look at some short yardage guys the Raiders could target in free agency:
Eddie Lacy actually might be a great fit for the Raiders this offseason. A combination of injuries and concerns about his tendency to put on weight have driven his value down. At this point, the best deal Lacy might see in free agency could come in the form of a one year prove-it style deal. The Raiders seem likely to address the running back position in the draft, but grabbing a cheap stop gap like Lacy wouldn’t be a bad idea even if they do draft someone. It gives the Raiders a more veteran presence at a position otherwise manned by a young group of backs. Plus, while the weight is an issue, he is a bigger back who gets short yardage, even if you might not want to expect a whole lot more than that if he’s packing on the pounds.
LeGarrette Blount is the exact kind of back the Raiders need. He’s great on short yardage and much like Lacy, could come on a short term deal that wouldn’t cost the Raiders too much. That being said, he’s a much better short yardage back than Eddie Lacy if you ask me. And while he specializes as a short yardage guy, he can do more than just pound between the tackles. Also like Lacy, he has a drawback, but it’s not weight issues. The big question with Blount is whether or not a coach other than Bill Belichick can get him to perform. Blount has been known to have attitude issues, notoriously punching a Boise State player after a college game. Under Belichick, Blount has reached his potential, but without him, he’s struggled.
Ok, this is where we get a little bit creative. One of the reasons the Raiders are expected to let Latavius Murray walk is because this year’s free agent running back class is pretty thin and Murray will likely comment a big number. Because of that, we’re leaving the regular world of unrestricted free agency to discuss a restricted free agent. Gillislee is one of the better short yardage backs in the league and if the Bills don’t sign him to a new contract, he might be ripe for poaching in free agency. He’s a backup and not really worth a first round tender. Perhaps they give him a second round tender, in which case the Raiders should not and will not bite. But if they give him an original round tender, a fifth round pick in this case, the Raiders should seriously consider it. He’s young and a proven talent who would fill a need. At the price of a fifth round pick, that’s a good deal. The question is whether they could sign him long term for a reasonable price after that.
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