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Where Raiders’ offense stands after 1st week of free agency

Updated March 18, 2024 - 1:02 pm

It’s been a slow roll for the Raiders’ offense during the first phase of free agency.

The club has been quiet on that side of the ball with only three moves. They signed veteran quarterback Gardner Minshew, who could push for the starting job, and tight end Harrison Bryant, and re-signed incumbent center Andre James.

Considering the Raiders’ most significant needs — starters at right tackle and right guard, depth along the offensive line and at running back and, of course, a long-term quarterback — general manager Tom Telesco is seemingly confident that the NFL draft and the ensuing wave of free agency will yield the answers.

The Raiders have nearly $30 million in cap space, with another $24 million coming when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract goes off their books June 2. They also have eight picks in the draft.

Here is a position-by-position look at where the offense stands after the first week of free agency:

Quarterback

State of the unit: With the Raiders paying second-year quarterback Aidan O’Connell $1,042,345 — and presumably a draft addition on a rookie contract — they were in position to splurge a bit for Minshew. Hence, the $12.5 million he will cost in 2024, which includes a $6 million signing bonus. Minshew can serve multiple roles, including beginning the season as the starter if the rookie isn’t ready to play and O’Connell loses his grip on the job. Ideally, he’s a veteran insurance policy. O’Connell is the starter until further notice, though.

Needs: Based on last season’s stats, O’Connell and Minshew are almost the same quarterback. O’Connell completed 62.1 percent of his passes to Minshew’s 62.2, threw 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions to Minshew’s 15 and nine, and compiled an 83.9 passer rating to Minshew’s 84.6. O’Connell finished with a 5-5 record as a starter to Minshew’s 7-6.

That obviously isn’t good enough to win at the highest levels of the NFL. Both offer value in the proper role, but make no mistake, the Raiders need to find a high-level quarterback.

Possibilities: Armed with the 13th pick overall, the Raiders are out of range for one of the top three prospects — Southern California’s Caleb Williams, Louisiana State’s Jayden Daniels or North Carolina’s Drake Maye. And with Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy gaining steam as a top-five or top-10 pick, he doesn’t appear to be in reach, either.

After trading quarterback Justin Fields to the Steelers, the Bears will draft Williams at No. 1. So if the Raiders are convinced that Daniels, Maye or McCarthy are must-haves, they must move into range to get one of them. That means trading into the top three for Daniels or Maye or four to seven for McCarthy. The willingness to pay the price is moot if they can’t find a trade partner. If so, the Raiders will have to shop on a different aisle, which consists of Washington’s Michael Penix, Oregon’s Bo Nix and South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler. Penix and Nix could land anywhere from the first round’s back quarter to the middle of the second, with Rattler projected to be a second- or third-round pick.

Wide receiver/tight end

State of the unit: Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers are an outstanding tandem, with Tre Tucker pushing for a bigger role as the third wide receiver. D.J. Turner and Kristian Wilkerson round out the room. At tight end, Michael Mayer has star qualities, with Bryant a solid blocker and second option. Zach Gentry, Cole Fotheringham and John Shenker are also under contract.

Needs: At some point, the Raiders will have to consider a replacement for the 32-year-old Adams, whose salary jumps from $16.9 million in 2024 to a nonguaranteed $35.6 million in 2025. A restructured contract is possible, but the transition to a younger, more cost-effective option is growing imminent. Adding reasonably priced competition for Tucker is a box to check off. Tight end won’t need to be addressed.

Possibilities: A ton of veteran wide receivers are available, and the price is coming down by the day. Mike Williams, Allen Robinson, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Chase Claypool and Michael Gallup are possibilities. The draft is loaded with wide receiver talent, so expect the Raiders to address the position.

Running back

State of the unit: Zamir White’s four-game starting stint to end last season created a comfort level for the Raiders to hold the line on Josh Jacobs, who left for the Packers in free agency. White looked the part of a primary back, but it remains to be seen if he can do it for a full season. Ameer Abdullah returns as a third-down change of pace back and a special teams ace. The Raiders also agreed to terms with veteran Alexander Mattison on Monday. Brittain Brown, who missed last season with an injury, Tyreik McAllister and Sincere McCormick are also on the roster.

Needs: It seems logical that the Raiders will add another change of pace back. Long range, a developmental running back who can learn behind White makes sense.

Possibilities: In the draft, Tennessee’s Jaylen Wright, Florida State’s Trey Benson and Michigan’s Blake Corum are intriguing prospects.

Offensive line

State of the unit: Left tackle Kolton Miller, left guard Dylan Parham and James return as starters, leaving right guard and right tackle open. If the season started today, Thayer Munford would get the nod at right tackle, with either Jordan Meredith or D.J. Fluker at right guard. Tackles Dalton Wagner and Jalen McKenzie are also on the roster.

Needs: Even if the Raiders believe Munford is ready to start, they need to add depth and competition to the position and a legitimate swing tackle candidate. Meredith has plenty of flexibility but seems suited as a rotational piece, and it’s been two years since Fluker was healthy enough to play. The Raiders need to address guard and center.

Possibilities. Veteran tackle David Bakhtiari could be a possibility, but injuries have limited him to 13 games in the past three seasons. Andre Dillard is more of a depth piece, but he would be a good fit at tackle in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s scheme, as would Yosh Nijman. At guard, Dalton Risner and Cody Whitehair are available.

The draft offers plenty of options at tackle and guard, and the depth is significant enough for the Raiders to find starting-caliber players on day two. At tackle, Penn State’s Olu Fashanu, Washington’s Troy Fautanu, Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga, Georgia’s Amarius Mims, Houston’s Patrick Paul and Brigham Young’s Kingsley Suamataia are players to watch. Connecticut’s Christian Haynes, Kansas State’s Cooper Beebe and Georgia’s Sedrick Van Pran are guards under consideration.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore atvbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

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