Are the Raiders a team on the upswing after their best record in eight years? Or are they just another 8-8 team adrift without a real solution at quarterback?
The Raiders took care of a lot of business by retaining a handful of players before the lockout started, but there is still plenty of work to do.
1. Re-sign Zach Miller.
Miller is a cornerstone to Oakland’s offense, not to mention one of the game’s most underrated players. Miller seems like a guy who should be a Raider for life. He’s also one of the best tight end free agents in years, so Oakland will have to pay up big money.
2. Make a competitive offer to Nnamdi Asomugha.
He’s worth it. Will Asomugha get a monster deal elsewhere? Probably, but we’re still not sure where it will come from. It’s at least possible the best offer comes from Oakland. Shane Lechler wound up staying when he thought he would leave.
3. Reconfigure offensive line.
Mario Henderson, Langston Walker, and Khalif Barnes are all not under contract. Robert Gallery is going to leave. The team is mostly transitioning away from zone blocking, which played to the strengths of Samson Satele and Cooper Carlisle.
The Raiders drafted two linemen early, but they may be asking too much of the rookies and 2010 pick Bruce Campbell. This is a huge rebuilding project for new line coach Bob Wylie, and perhaps the biggest reason to doubt Oakland as a playoff team.
4. Look for value at quarterback, especially Vince Young.
Jason Campbell hasn’t shown he’s the answer yet, and he’s not under contract in 2012. The Raiders are in a good position because they aren’t desperate for a quarterback, but they should be looking for value.
There are too many interesting quarterback names available this offseason, and not enough jobs. Al Davis loves to rehab talented quarterbacks, and Young has shown he can produce at a high level. VY in Oakland: What could go wrong?
5. Retain Michael Bush.
There is some question about Bush’s status because he was on the NFI list as a rookie. We believe he’ll be a restricted free agent, which should make him easy enough to retain.
6. Bolster cornerback depth.
This assumes list item No.2 doesn’t work. The Raiders are better situated to handle the departure of free safety Michael Huff than if Asomugha leaves as expected. Rookie DeMarcus Van Dyke looks like a project. The Raiders don’t want to rely on Chris Johnson and Walter McFadden too much.
7. Find a linebacker.
It didn’t happen in the draft, but the Raiders could use an alternative to Quentin Groves on the weak side.
8. Stay hungry.
The world isn’t out to get you, Raiders Nation. The NFL would love to see Oakland be relevant again after being one of the worst franchises in the league for nearly a decade.
Despite those struggles, we sense an odd overconfidence bubbling within the franchise after one .500 season. This team is talented enough to make a run at 10 wins, but not so talented they couldn’t collapse right back to five wins.
There is a lot of work to do and we hope Hue Jackson is the man to let this roster know 8-8 was just a start, not something to be overly excited about when a lot of talent could leave town.