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3 things new coach Pierce, Raiders should do this offseason

Antonio Pierce will hit the ground running after taking over as the coach of the Raiders.

Among the immediate tasks he faces are building his coaching staff and deciding whether to add a quarterback through a trade, the draft or free agency to upgrade over Aidan O’Connell.

The decisions Pierce and the Raiders’ eventual general manager make over the next few months could be the difference in a legitimate push to the playoffs or spending another season in the middle of the pack.

Here are some suggestions on how Pierce and the Raiders can reach the next level:

1. Find a dynamic offensive coordinator

The most significant challenge Pierce faces is fixing an offense that averaged 19.5 points per game last season.

No doubt the quarterback play was a big issue, but before the Raiders can identify a solution for that position, they must decide on a vision for the offense.

And that starts with who Pierce picks as his offensive coordinator.

The assumption would be that Pierce would lean toward an experienced coordinator. Adam Gase and Greg Roman fit that profile. Kliff Kingsbury brings experience, although that feels like a long shot.

But history shows it’s important to identify up-and-comers. Lions coach Dan Campbell did that by promoting Ben Johnson from tight ends coach and passing game coordinator to offensive coordinator in 2022. Super Bowl-winning Rams coach Sean McVay was a 28-year-old tight ends coach when Washington promoted him to offensive coordinator in 2014.

There are some intriguing young assistants who appear ready to take over an offense. Among some names already connected to the Raiders are Zac Robinson (Rams), Klint Kubiak andBrian Fleury (49ers), Adam Stenavich (Packers) and Shane Waldron (Seahawks).

The Raiders need a fresh offensive vision, and all five would be excellent choices to inject life into that side of the ball.

2. Keep the defense and its staff intact, but take a big swing

Second-year Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has interviewed for multiple head coach openings, and it’s only a matter of time before he gets a chance to run his own show. When that day comes, no one would be happier than the Raiders organization, which greatly respects him.

If Graham does not land a head coaching gig, though, it’s a must that Pierce keeps him in Las Vegas. Graham remains under contract, and by all indications, he would welcome a return to the Raiders.

The same is true for Graham’s staff, which did a remarkable job transforming the defense from one of the worst in the NFL in 2022 to one of the best last season.

The Raiders have a manageable group of defensive free agents, and it is worthwhile to bring back defensive tackles Adam Butler and John Jenkins and cornerback Amik Robertson, none of whom are expected to break the bank.

The Raiders’ favorable salary cap and roster situation, coupled with more than $100 million in cash coming off their books, put them in position to make a big splash in free agency.

Chris Jones, the longtime Chiefs defensive lineman, is a pending free agent. And the emotions he showed before last week’s playoff win over the Dolphins made it seem like he was preparing for the possibility of playing his final game at Arrowhead Stadium.

If the 29-year-old Jones becomes available, the Raiders must be first in line to inquire about his interest in coming to Las Vegas and be open to paying the price to make it happen. Playing Jones alongside Maxx Crosby would turn the Raiders’ very good defensive line into a great one.

3. Do what it takes to get a quarterback

The Raiders have been settling at quarterback for years, and their lack of sustained success over the past two decades reflects their inability to get it right at the most important position on the field.

Part of the issue is how passive they have been in addressing it — not using a first-round pick on a quarterback since JaMarcus Russell in 2007 and settling for Derek Carr, who provided good-but-not-great play.

This weekend’s playoff matchups offer compelling evidence of how to get your franchise-caliber quarterback. Of the quarterbacks starting in the divisional round, only San Francisco’s Brock Purdy was drafted outside the first round.

Detroit’s Jared Goff and Tampa Bay’s Baker Mayfield were chosen with the first overall picks in their drafts, though not by the teams they are leading now.

Houston’s C.J. Stroud was the second overall pick in his draft, Buffalo’s Josh Allen was picked at No. 7, and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes went at No. 10. Green Bay’s Jordan Love was chosen at No. 26 and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson at No. 32.

The Raiders, who have the 13th pick overall in the 2024 draft, must be open to using that pick for a quarterback or, more importantly, trading up to get one of the top three prospects.

If the Bears are open to trading Justin Fields, that is an option the Raiders should also consider.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

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