What needs do the Raiders have to address this offseason?

With the Oakland Raiders so quiet in free agency, many fans are anxious about the fact that Reggie McKenzie has not signed any position that is seen as a big need for the team. While the Raiders won 12 games and made it to the playoffs in 2016, there were clearly a number of holes in their roster and a number of areas that could use an upgrade.

So that raises the question, how many needs to the Raiders have to address this offseason for fans to reasonably expect them to compete for a Super Bowl run in 2017?

First let’s take a look at the team’s needs. Before the start of free agency, I did a piece on the top needs for Oakland. Here is a look at that list:

7. Slot WR

6. Safety

5. Corner

4. Short yardage back

3. Offensive tackle

2. Linebacker

1. Defensive tackle

Let’s take a look at them one by one:

Slot WR - This is more of a luxury need than a desperate need. Seth Roberts is a talented football player who might be considered one of the better wide receivers in the league if he could ever find a way to play consistently. Unfortunately, without that consistency. he is a frustrating third target who leaves a whole lot on the field. It would be great to upgrade but the Raiders were a top offense with him so it’s far from the end of the world if they don’t upgrade.

Safety - This is very similar to the slot wide receiver need. Reggie Nelson was ok for the Raiders last season but also represented a position that they can afford to upgrade. Especially considering the fact that the Raiders could cut Nelson without a cap hit. But, if the Raiders can’t find an upgrade for Nelson, it’s far from the end of the world. Much like with Seth Roberts, the Raiders can go another year with Nelson as a stop gap.

Corner - I never really thought the Raiders would address the outside corners through free agency. They are not parting ways with Sean Smith or David Amerson this offseason and already have a lot of money tied up in them. They might take a corner in the draft and might want to grab a corner to replace D.J. Hayden as depth. But they might also be comfortable rolling with T.J. Carrie in the slot after he played fairly well at the end of last season.

But once again, if the Raiders don’t upgrade one of the three starting corners this offseason it wouldn’t be surprising. Depth, in the form of a draft pick who could be a starter even if not right away, is definitely something the Raiders should be looking at this offseason. Not drafting a corner, especially with a deep draft class, would be a big mistake.

Short Yardage Back - This is where we get to an area that the Raiders really need to address. If they don’t bring back Latavius Murray, Oakland needs to do something about their short yardage game. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington will be able to carry the majority of the load at running back but the team needs a true short yardage back. Jamize Olawale is an option but the Raiders should try and do better than that as a compliment to Richard and Washington.

Offensive Tackle - Oakland lost Menelik Watson and added Marshall Newhouse in free agency. That basically breaks down to losing a talented but always injured backup and replacing him with a less talented but more versatile and healthy backup. Unlike Watson who was limited to playing tackle, Newhouse can play tackle and guard.

But that doesn’t answer the starting right tackle position. The Raiders have Austin Howard but an upgrade is clearly in order. With a free agent market that resulted in massively overpaid offensive linemen, the Raiders will be left with a weak draft class. That may mean another year with Howard at tackle or a year with Alexander Vadal or Denver Kirkland, neither of whom looks ready to be a starter. It’s less than ideal but at least they have Mike Tice.

Linebacker - The Raiders need to make some moves here. In the middle, they need to at least bring back Perry Riley, Jr. If they do that and don’t upgrade over him, that’s something you can live with. Riley isn’t the long term answer but he’s a very good stop gap.

But with the departure of Malcolm Smith, the Raiders need another outside linebacker. While it’s true that allowing Smith to walk in free agency is addition by subtraction, you still need to find a new starter. They have Cory James and hopefully Neiron Ball will return healthy. But the Raiders should really be looking for a better answer to the need than either of them.

Defensive Tackle - This is another area the Raiders really need to address this offseason. With Stacy McGee leaving in free agency, they could use another rotational defensive tackle. And before we even knew that McGee would not be returning, there was a need for a defensive tackle capable of providing more pass rush.

Hopefully Mario Edwards, Jr. will be healthy Darius Latham will continue to develop and become a contributor, but Oakland can’t sit back and rely on hope. They need to be proactive and bring in help on the defensive line so it’s not just Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin providing the pass rush.

So, of the seven top needs for the Raiders, there are only three that it’s really important the address this offseason: short yardage back, linebacker and defensive tackle. If they address these three needs, they will have a roster that’s capable of competing for a Super Bowl.

Luckily for them, there are still lots of talented players available in free agency and there’s still a draft where finding three starters is actually a real possibility.

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