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Raiders’ Pierce stung by loss of one free agent: ‘That one hurt’

Antonio Pierce has been in the NFL long enough to know it’s a business.

Teams are forced to make difficult decisions each year because of the salary cap. Pierce experienced that firsthand his first offseason as Raiders coach with running back Josh Jacobs.

Pierce lobbied hard for the return of a player he called the team’s “heartbeat.” Jacobs expressed a willingness to stay in Las Vegas for the long haul.

The two sides couldn’t agree to terms after two seasons of negotiations, however. Jacobs instead accepted a four-year, $48 million contract with the Green Bay Packers on March 11 that includes $12.5 million in guarantees.

The Raiders, dating back to last offseason, felt they made competitive offers to Jacobs to keep him in the fold. Things didn’t work out. Pierce understands it, but it still stung.

“That one hurt,” Pierce said.

It wasn’t just about what Jacobs did on the field.

He was a leader and a respected member of the Raiders locker room. Pierce valued what Jacobs represented as much as the 5,545 rushing yards and 46 rushing touchdowns the running back totaled in five seasons.

“Yeah, I don’t like to see it. I made it known. A heartbeat. A Raider through and through,” Pierce said. “But as we all know, it’s a business. … And he had to do what’s best for him and his family and I wish him the best.”

The presence of third-year running back Zamir White softens the blow.

The former Georgia standout shined the final four games last season when Jacobs was out with a quadriceps injury. White ran for 397 yards in that span. He had two 100-yard games, the same number Jacobs had in 13 games.

White appears ready for a larger role.

“You got to move on and move forward,” Pierce said. “The good thing about it, Zamir got a great opportunity last year. We’ve seen what he’s able to do.”

The Raiders added former Vikings running back Alexander Mattison in free agency to give White a running mate. The team also brought back running back Ameer Abdullah, a special-teams ace.

Mattison was one of three major offensive moves the Raiders made in the market. They also signed quarterback Gardner Minshew and tight end Harrison Bryant.

“When you look at these guys, they’re Raiders,” Pierce said. “They fit our culture.”

Raiders general manager Tom Telesco is likely not done tinkering with the running back position. He prefers to have depth there.

That means the Raiders could choose to bring in another player in April’s draft. It’s not a pressing need for the team, but some second- and third-day options at the position include Michigan’s Blake Corum, Southern California’s MarShawn Lloyd, Notre Dame’s Audric Estime, Clemson’s Will Shipley and Louisville’s Isaac Guerendo.

“The way we’re going to play and the way a lot of teams play (means) you need more than one back,” Telesco said. “I don’t really see a lead-back type thing. You’ve got to have more than one. You need to have two, you need to have three. They all have different roles with the team. The way this game is played, it’s hard to put that all on one person.”

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

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