The Las Vegas Raiders are at a pivotal crossroads entering 2023
I am a Pittsburgh Steelers fan through and through, this much is known. But I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t have a slight rooting interest in the Las Vegas Raiders. My best friend and his entire family are diehard Raiders fans, so I like to keep tabs on the team and when they do well, it brings slight joy to me.
Ahead of the 2022 season, I thought they would finish second in their division, and that was a clear miss. Now, entering the 2023 offseason, they have a lot of decisions to make, since they are crucial to the long-term success of the Silver and Black.
What do they do at quarterback?
The Las Vegas Raiders foolishly decided to bench Derek Carr for the last two weeks of the season, signaling the end of his tenure with the team.
That was a mistake. We can go back and forth as to why that is, but I think Dom put it eloquently.
Now, entering the 2023 offseason, the only quarterback under contract is Chase Garbers, a rookie from Cal. Yes, I also had to Google him to see if he was real.
The Raiders have to nail their next choice at the position. I believe shooting their shot with Tom Brady is a mistake. Brady has to be in win-now mode at this stage of his career, and Vegas is not equipped to make a run at a Super Bowl, the defense isn’t at least.
So that leads me to the 2023 NFL Draft.
Trade up or trade down?
The Las Vegas Raiders are picking seventh in the upcoming draft. Las Vegas has not had good returns on first round investments in recent memory (Alex Leatherwood in 2022, Henry Ruggs and Damon Arnette in 2021, Clelin Ferrell in 2020 and the list goes on). But for the future of this organization, this team must absolutely crush the draft this year.
Looking at the quarterbacks in the class, Alabama’s Bryce Young should go first, if not in the top three. Kentucky’s Will Levis is getting a lot of love (for whatever reason) and most certainly has a chance to be the second quarterback taken. There’s a real possibility that Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud is available at pick seven. If that’s the case, that’s the only option: Stroud no matter what. He revived his draft stock during the CFB Playoff game against Georgia. I might be back in a little.
If Stroud is not there, I genuinely think a solid alternative is Florida’s Anthony Richardson. I was very high on Richardson before the season, and still am now despite the record this season. He reminds me a lot of Josh Allen when he came out of Wyoming: monster frame with a cannon for an arm but extremely mobile. He also has serious accuracy concerns. Buffalo took their chance and look how that worked out. I’m not saying he is guaranteed to be the next Allen, but he’s got that potential.
If you aren’t sold in Richardson, I’d argue trading back. Try to accumulate as many first round picks next year, because the grand prize in 2024 is USC’s Caleb Williams. Vegas would be wise to understand that he is arguably better than everyone in this year’s class, and they could have a real shot at him if they grab two firsts and some seconds next year to throw into a package to move up. Drake Maye is also a baller and a great consolation prize.
What about free agency?
The Las Vegas Raiders already sit ninth in total cap space available with right at $21 million. Once the inevitable trade or cut of Carr happens, that number is going to balloon. The priority during free agency is as follows, at least how I see it.
I list offensive line first because there is a player looming in free agency who would be a home run signing for Vegas: Orlando Brown from Kansas City.
While the Chiefs would be wise to at least franchise tag him and not let him walk, if he’s available you send a blank check and tell him to write what he wants and sign that. No questions asked. A 26-year-old tackle who has mounds of playoff experience who just so happens to be fantastic?
Pairing him with Kolton Miller is a slam dunk no brainer use whatever superlative you want. Yes, both guys play left tackle, but you make it work. If you can’t land Brown, that is when you look to bolster the defense.
For those who care, here is how I would handle the offseason for the Las Vegas Raiders.
- Fire Josh McDaniels
- Pay Ejiro Evero whatever he wants to become HC
- Tag Josh Jacobs and sell high in a trade
- Begrudgingly trade Carr to Tampa Bay
- Land Brown (if available); if not, key signings would be Jessie Bates, Mike McGlinchey, DaRon Payne, and Tremaine Edmunds. Re-sign Jarrett Stidham.
- If Stroud isn’t available at pick seven, trade down, then trade down again.
The AFC West is no joke. Kansas City is set up for the next decade, Los Angeles has a bright future as well. Denver is, well, who knows what Denver is going to look like. But Las Vegas has all the makings and potential to nail this off-season and enter 2023 with all the chips in their basket.
This offseason is as crucial as any have been in recent memory for the Raiders, let’s see how they do.
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