Every NFL Team and Division in 3 Words

3 words can tell the entire story.

With the dog days of summer winding down, NFL training camps are officially underway. While most want to jump the gun and predict the NFL season now, let’s start with 3 words to describe every team and every division in the NFL.

AFC North: Beat ’em up.

afcnorth

Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger goes diva.

Baltimore Ravens: Binding Flacco contract.

Cincinnati Bengals: Picture of complacency.

Cleveland Browns: Hope? LOL. Nope.

The AFC North is a brutal division, one in which the teams beat each other up so much during the season come playoff time, they’re out of gas. The Steelers are the best team in the division, but Ben Roethlisberger discussing retirement this early smells like trouble. The Ravens will be competitive, but they’d be more competitive if not for QB Joe Facco’s contract. The Bengals never seem to aspire to be better than average, and the Browns are a doormat.

AFC South: First round exit.

afcsouth

Houston Texans: Won with Osweiler.

Tennessee Titans: Rise of Mariota.

Indianapolis Colts: Out of Luck.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Gag on Coughlin.

The AFC South Division winner has the luxury of hosting a home playoff game and promptly losing. The Texans won with Brock Osweiler at QB, so rookie QB Deshaun Watson could be a step up. The Titans continued progress will depend on the health of QB Marcus Mariota, the Colts can’t continue relying on QB Andrew Luck to be a contender, and the “new look Jaguars” with Tom Coughlin in the front office will continue to be woeful until QB Blake Bortles is deported.

AFC East: Pats stand pat.

afc-east

New England Patriots: Please stop winning.

Miami Dolphins: One year wonder.

Buffalo Bills: Sabotaged by Pengulas.

New York Jets: J-E-T-S spells L-O-S-E.

Since 2001, only the Jets in 2002 and Dolphins in 2008 have won the division. The Patriots have nothing to worry about in this cakewalk of a division. The Dolphins won’t be able to replicate last years success, the Bills’ ownership prevents them from being even halfway competent, and the Jets are essentially tanking.

AFC West: Most competitive division.

Oakland Raiders: Just Win Baby.

Kansas City Chiefs: Kings of almost.

Denver Broncos: Mile High controversy.

Los Angeles Chargers: Soccer stadium tenants.

The AFC West is easily the NFL’s most competitive division, as 3 of the 4 teams posted records above .500 last year. The Raiders will want to continue their newfound commitment to excellence all the way to a division title. The Chiefs will sport a good team but aren’t legitimate contenders. The Broncos will be hindered by their QB controversy between Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, and the Chargers were rewarded for moving to LA LA Land by being tenants in a 30,000 seat soccer stadium.

NFC North: Cold and predictable.

Green Bay Packers: Default division winner.

Minnesota Vikings: Bridge(water) too far.

Detroit Lions: Roar no more.

Chicago Bears: Should’ve ditched Mitch.

The NFC North is known for being a rather chilly division come late October, but its utterly predictable. The overrated, over-hyped, and overblown Packers will win the division. The Vikings need QB Teddy Bridgewater to come back if they have any hope of being a playoff contender. The Lions surprised many last season with a postseason appearance, but that seems unreasonable to expect this season. The Bears were swindled by the 49ers and picked a QB who started 13 games in his collegiate career, it’ll be a cold winter for them.

NFC South: Worst to first.

NFC-South

Carolina Panthers: Dab strikes back.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Winston’s next step.

Atlanta Falcons: Super Bowl hangover.

New Orleans Saints: The final Brees.

This division always seems to have the worst to first syndrome, where a team that finished in last place the previous year ascends to first place the next. QB Cam Newton and the Panthers will continue this trend, as the dab will strike back. QB Jameis Winston could potentially lead the Bucs into the postseason, the Falcons won’t be over their epic collapse, and the Saints will be looking to move on from QB Drew Brees.

NFC East: Beasts in East.

Dallas Cowboys: Inmates running asylum.

New York Giants: Odell rights ship.

Philadelphia Eagles: Winners of off-season.

Washington Redskins: Kirk or Kurt?

The NFC East is always one of the roughest, toughest divisions in the NFL, and this year will be no different. While the Dallas Cowboys resemble more of a Federal prison than a football team, they’re the best team in the division. Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. will overcome the ghost of his ill-fated boat trip and have an MVP caliber season. The Eagles impressed many with their off-season acquisitions, but will there be team chemistry? Meanwhile, the Redskins will continue to be petty and mispronounce their overrated QB’s name, Kirk (Kurt?) Cousins.

NFC West: One team matters.

Seattle Seahawks: Winning trumps animosity.

Arizona Cardinals: Gasp for Arians.

Los Angeles Rams: Scoff at Goff.

49ers: Still York owned.

This division has one relevant team. Despite the fact every player on the roster hates QB Russell Wilson, chief among them CB Richard Sherman, the Seahawks’ winning will mask their dysfunction. This season could very well be the Cardinals’ final run at a Super Bowl title. QB Jared Goff of the Rams will prove himself to be one of the biggest Draft Busts ever. Lastly, the 49ers are still owner by Jed York, who hired John Lynch, a former color commentator with no front office experience to be their GM (*Does Matt Millen ring a bell?*). Lynch went on to hire the man who called 5 running plays in the second half of Super Bowl 51 when he was up 28-3, Kyle Shanahan, the spoiled brat son of a tomato (*Mike Shanahan*).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Curse of the Quarterback Contract Extentsion

Forget the Madden Curse, it’s all about the curse of QB contract extensions.

In a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, the Oakland soon to be Las Vegas Raiders signed franchise quarterback Derek Carr to a 5 year, $125 million contract extension. That averages out to $25 million annually, and includes $40 million in guaranteed money. Carr undoubtedly deserved the extension, as through three NFL seasons he has amassed 11,194 passing yards and thrown for 81 touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 87.9. However, history has shown many quarterbacks have struggled the next season after receiving a contract extension. Such examples include:

Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams: 6 years for $62.5 Million

marc-bulger

Bulger signed this extension after the 2006 season, where he threw for 4,301 yards, 24 touchdowns and 8 interceptions with a quarterback rating of 92.9. The next season, Bulger threw for only 2,392 yards, 11 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 70.3. Bulger never came close to living up to the extension, as he was released after the 2009 season and finished up his career backing up Joe Flacco for the Baltimore Ravens in 2010.

David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars: 6 years for $60 Million

alg-giants-jaguars-cotfield-jpg

In 2007, David Garrard threw for 2,509 yards, 18 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 102.2 while leading the Jaguars to the AFC Divisional playoff round. Garrard was then rewarded with this contract extension, similar to the one the aforementioned Marc Bulger received. In a 2008 season that saw the Jags have lofty Super Bowl aspirations, Garrard threw for just 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and the Jaguars finished 5-11, good for last place in the AFC South.

Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs: 6 years for $62.7 Million

20121223_pjc_sm8_062-0

Matt Cassel threw for 3,693 yards, 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 89.4 in 2008 for the New England Patriots with Tom Brady injured. This was enough for the Kansas City Chiefs to trade for him and sign him to a new contract, as the Chiefs thought they had finally found their franchise quarterback. The Chiefs went 4-12 in 2009, and Cassel threw for 2,924 yards, 16 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 69.9. While Cassel did earn a Pro-Bowl bid and led the Chiefs to an AFC West Divisional title in 2010, Cassel never came close to matching his supposed worth, as he was cut after the 2012 season after struggling mightily in 2011 and 2012.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: 6 years for $120.6 Million

rc-ravens-steelers-assaf30

To be fair, Joe Flacco was coming off a postseason in which he threw for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions on his way to a Super Bowl victory with the Baltimore Ravens. He had made it to 3 AFC Championship Games since 2008 and was legitimately deserving of a new deal after the 2012 season. Unfortunately, the 2013 season saw Flacco and the Ravens experience a Super Bowl hangover, as Flacco threw 22 interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 73.1. The Ravens finished 8-8 and missed the postseason that year, and have only made it to the postseason once since signing Flacco to that extension.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: 6 years for $108 Million

grant_g_romo_cr_64011

Tony Romo already holds the mantel of the most overrated quarterback in NFL history because his stats were admittedly astounding for fantasy football geeks and he played for “America’s Team.” This led to Owner/ GM of the Cowboys Jerry Jones to give his illegitimate son this massive contract extension after two straight seasons of Romo choking in the final game of the regular season that could’ve put the Cowboys in the playoffs. 2013 saw him gag important games against the Denver Broncos and the Green Bay Packers (*the Cowboys blew a 23-point lead and Matt Flynn started for the Packers that game*) and the Cowboys missed the playoffs. While Romo did lead the Cowboys to a 12-4 record and an appearance in the NFC Divisional Playoff round in 2014, injuries and Dak Prescott prevented Romo from playing out the rest of his contract, and he is now the lead color commentator for CBS.

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears: 7 years for $126 Million

NFL: Chicago Bears at New England Patriots

Although the Bears hadn’t made it to the postseason for the third straight season, Jay “My arm is bigger than John Elway’s” Cutler signed this massive contract extension after the 2013 season. The Bears went on to finish 5-11 in 2014, and Cutler was run out of town and the league after the 2016 season amid questions about his leadership abilities. He is now a color commentator for Fox.

While Carr is most certainly better than many of the quarterbacks listed here and the Raiders are better than the teams those quarterbacks played for, Raiders fans should be somewhat concerned about the 2017 season. History indicates many quarterbacks struggle the season after they receive a contract extension, and Carr could be the next victim of this curse. Factor in the fact that the Raiders’ schedule is already one of the toughest in the league, Super Bowl expectations, and the looming move to Las Vegas into the equation, and the 2017 season could turn out to be a major letdown for the silver and black. This may not be the Curse of the Bambino, the Billy Goat Curse, or even the Curse of the Black Pearl, but the Curse of Quarterback Contract Extensions looms large over the Raiders’ 2017 season.

 

Bro-Commentary: Evaluating the Raiders 2017 Regular Season Schedule

Does the 2017 schedule suggest the Raiders will maintain their commitment to excellence?

The 2017 NFL schedule has been released, and pundits everywhere are already predicting teams’ records for the upcoming season. Not so fast everyone! We haven’t even made it to the NFL Draft, so predicting how a teams’ season will play out in April is a bit premature. However, that does not mean we cannot analyze teams’ schedules based on their difficulty and how many prime-time games they will be playing. Being the Raiders fan that I am, I thought it would be engaging to assess the Oakland soon to be Las Vegas Raiders’ 2017 schedule.

Week 1: Sep 10 @ Tennessee Titans

Week 2: Sep 17 New York Jets

Week 3: Sep 24 @ Washington Redskins (Sunday Night Football)

Week 4: Oct 1 @ Denver Broncos

Week 5: Oct 8 Baltimore Ravens

Week 6: Oct 15 Los Angeles Chargers

Week 7: Oct 19 Kansas City Chiefs (Thursday Night Football)

Week 8: Oct 29 @ Buffalo Bills

Week 9: Nov 5 @ Miami Dolphins (Sunday Night Football)

Week 10: BYE

Week 11: Nov 19 New England Patriots* (Home game in Mexico City)

Week 12: Nov 26 Denver Broncos

Week 13: Dec 3 New York Giants

Week 14: Dec 10 @ Kansas City Chiefs

Week 15: Dec 17 Dallas Cowboys (Sunday Night Football)

Week 16: Dec 25 @ Philadelphia Eagles (Monday Night Football)

Week 17: Dec 31 @ Los Angeles Chargers

The Raiders 2017 schedule appears to be tougher than their schedule in 2016. For starters, three out of their first four games this season are on the road. They first travel to Nashville to face the Titans week 1, go home to have their home opener against the Jets week 2, fly back east to the nation’s capital to face the Redskins on Sunday Night Football week 3, and then travel to Denver to face their division rival Broncos week 4. The Titans are a team on the rise much like the Raiders, the Redskins are tough at home, and any divisional match-up is always a war. We’ll definitely learn a lot about the Raiders within the first four weeks of the season.

The Raiders also play the NFC East, arguably one of the toughest divisions in football. All of the teams in that division had seven or more wins last year, making their 2017 campaign against the NFC more difficult than last year when they faced the lowly NFC South. Interestingly enough, three of their last five opponents are from the NFC East, as they will face the Giants at home week 13, the Cowboys at home week 15 on Sunday Night Football, and the Eagles in Philadelphia week 16 on a Christmas Day edition of Monday Night Football. This is arguably their toughest stretch of games in 2017, as they also have two road games against division rivals Chiefs and Chargers sprinkled in to end the regular season.

The Raiders also have a relatively late bye week this year, as they will play in nine regular season games before having their bye week in week 10. Personally, I prefer later bye weeks, as it gives teams a chance to rest and replenish themselves before the home stretch of the season. Additionally, their bye week comes before their most important game of the season and is also a potential AFC Championship preview: a “home” game against the reigning Super Bowl Champion Patriots in Mexico City. As wrestling legend Ric Flair once said, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.” This game would allow the Raiders to prove themselves as the heir apparent to the AFC throne, and maybe even as the team to beat in the AFC.

Unlike previous seasons where the Raiders struggled to be featured in prime-time match-ups, the Raiders will play in five prime-time games in 2017. They will play three games on NBC’s Sunday Night Football: @ Redskins, @ Dolphins, and home against the Cowboys. They will also be featured in a mandatory CBS/ NFL Network Thursday Night Football (*aka the plague of the earth*) match-up against their division rival Chiefs, and a previously mentioned ESPN Monday Night Football Christmas Day showdown against the Eagles. After going 12-4 last season, the Raiders caught the eyes of many, resulting in them being under the spotlight more frequently in 2017.

Lastly, it would be unfathomable to talk about the Raiders’ 2017 schedule without mentioning the news of their move to Las Vegas in the near future. Not since the 1995 Cleveland Browns has a team had such high aspirations going into the season while also experiencing such a mammoth distraction during it. Of course the players will say it’s not a distraction and that they want to focus on the on the field results, that’s what they are paid to do. But one must wonder if the constant pestering of their future move to Las Vegas will play a dooming role during their season. This is especially pressing considering their final game in the Oakland Alameda Coliseum could be their biggest game of the season in a possible Super Bowl match-up against the Cowboys.

While the Raiders will face an uphill battle considering owner Mark Davis’ decision to relocate the team to Las Vegas and a tougher schedule in 2017, the Raiders will be a popular pick to win the AFC West and make it to the Super Bowl. They have the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in DE Kahlil Mack, who will look to continue his dominance. They have an explosive offense led by franchise QB Derek Carr. Whether you are a fan of them or not, there’s little doubt the Raiders will be a compelling team to watch throughout 2017.

 

 

 

Bro-Commentary: The Raiders Move to Las Vegas

Las Vegas Raiders. Let that sink in.Las Vegas Raiders Football

I was born a Raider. I bleed silver and black. I remember the sinking feeling I had when the Raiders lost to the New England Patriots in the infamous “Tuck Rule” game in the 2001 Divisional Playoffs that birthed a dynasty. I remember tuning in to Super Bowl 37 and watching the Raiders get crushed by former Raiders coach Jon Gruden and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I remember the feeling I got every Sunday from 2003 until 2015 expecting the Raiders to lose. “Just Win, Baby” became “Just Lose, Baby”, as the Raiders became synonymous with losing.

None of those feelings compare to the one I have now with the news that the Oakland Raiders are no more. They are now the Las Vegas Raiders. On Monday, the Raiders received conditional approval from the NFL to relocate from Oakland, California to Las Vegas, Nevada. They received “yes” votes from every owner in the NFL with the exception of Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins. Raiders owner Mark Davis said in a statement the Raiders plan on playing at the Oakland Coliseum for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, as the new stadium in Las Vegas is not set to open until 2020.

The city of Oakland took a hard stance in new stadium negotiations throughout the last decade or so, refusing to use public funds to pay for a new stadium. Oakland made a last ditch effort to keep the Raiders by sending the NFL a revised $1.3 billion stadium proposal. On Saturday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf gave an impassioned speech in which she pleaded to the NFL to keep the Raiders in Oakland. I was moved by her speech. I couldn’t help but feel this was a woman who wanted to see the city of Oakland, the birthplace of the Raiders, keep their beloved football team. However, this was a move just to save face. It was an 11th hour PR strategy. The very definition of a Hail Mary pass in the closing seconds in the fourth quarter. She could have done more. Oakland could have done more. They lacked the urgency to do more.

One can hardly blame the Raiders for their decision. The city of Las Vegas put up $750 million in public funds from a hotel tax to build a new stadium. That number could be $950 million when accounting for the extra $200 million in public funds that suddenly became available over the weekend. Las Vegas ponied up. Whatever the Raiders needed, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval provided it. Governor Sandoval had the political power to do so. Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf didn’t. There was no alternative for the Raiders. Las Vegas was the only option on the table. The Raiders had to go all in. The move resulted in a payout larger than one you’d see at any of the Las Vegas casinos.

Mark Davis also said in a statement Monday that his father and former Raiders owner, the late Al Davis, once told him ” ‘the greatness in the raiders is in its future.’ ” That future no longer includes Oakland. Losing the Oakland in the Raiders name just doesn’t feel right. No matter what decade you were playing the Oakland Raiders, you knew you were in for a rough afternoon. Oakland epitomizes the toughness, grit, and win at any cost mentality that everyone came to know the Raiders by. Even in an age where techies are gentrifying the city, Oakland still maintains its blue collar identity, the same one everybody also came to know the Raiders for. Even when they moved to Los Angeles in 1982 those same qualities remained. Something about putting Las Vegas in front of the Raiders’ team name just seems wrong. Sure, the jersey colors, players, and logo will remain, but those aforementioned qualities get lost once Las Vegas is stamped onto the team’s name.

The Raiders will always have the classic Al Davis-isms. Commitment to excellence. Just win, baby. But it’s the “autumn wind” anthem that is perhaps the most apt description of how the whole Las Vegas saga has unfolded. “The autumn wind is a Raider. Pillaging just for fun. He’ll knock you ’round and upside down, And laugh when he’s conquered and won.” That wind no longer blows in Oakland. It’s the Raider Nation that’s been pillaged, knocked ’round and upside down. Mark Davis can now laugh that he has conquered and won his new stadium, but it comes at the expense of a city and fan base that has now lost its team twice. Even with all of my disappointment and heartbreak with the news of the Raiders moving to Las Vegas, I can’t help but fall back on this phrase: Win lose or tie, Raider Nation till I die.

Bro-Commentary: Grading the Raiders Free Agent Signings and Rumors

Have the Raiders made the moves necessary to turn them into perennial Lombardi Trophy contenders?

A week or so ago, I wrote about the potential moves the Raiders could make during the NFL free agency period to help improve their team. While they may have started relatively quiet at the start of the period, the Raiders have made some new additions to their team whilst also being the subject of one of the biggest rumors of the off-season. Here are my grades for their new additions and the speculation they are currently experiencing.

OL Marshall Newhouse, 2 years $3.5 Million

The Raiders’ first move of free agency was signing veteran offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse to a 2-year deal worth $ 3.5 million. With the departure of OL Menelik Watson to the Broncos, the Raiders needed some depth behind an already stacked offensive line. Newhouse is a nice addition that doesn’t break the bank, but it definitely won’t be a move that significantly improves the Raiders.

Grade: C

WR Cordarrelle Patterson, 2 Years $4.5 Million

Patterson is a welcome addition to the Raiders, particularly for their return game which has struggled the last few seasons. Patterson has five kickoff returns for touchdowns since being drafted by the Vikings in 2013, including a ninety-five-yard touchdown return against the Raiders in 2015. He’s also a great addition to a deep wide receiver corps, as he caught 52 passes for 453 yards and 2 touchdowns last year. He’s the type of signing that may not make headline news, but will be looked back as one of the best signings of the off-season.

Grade: A-

TE Jared Cook, 2 Years $ 12.2 Million

If there’s been a weak position that needed to be addressed on the Raiders’ offense, it was the Tight-End position. Mychal Rivera regressed last season, posting career-lows in receptions and yards and hasn’t blocked a day in his NFL career. Clive Walford hasn’t quite panned out since being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2015 NFL draft, and Lee Smith spent most of last season on injured reserve. Jared Cook gives the Raiders the pass catching and blocking abilities they have lacked at the tight-end position. While he was limited to only 10 games last year, Cook is an improvement over all of the tight-ends currently on the roster. He will be a significant contributor to Derek Carr and the Raiders’ explosive passing game.

Grade: B+

QB EJ Manuel

The first quarterback taken in the quarterback bereft 2013 NFL draft, EJ Manuel never found his groove with the Bills. He’s spent the last few seasons backing up Tyrod Taylor, and he knows he isn’t competing for the starting job in Oakland with Derek Carr in the saddle. He’s an improvement over backup quarterbacks Matt McGloin and Connor Cook since he has more starting experience than the two, so won’t look totally like a deer in the headlights should he be thrown into action.

Grade: B-

LB Jelani Jenkins

Jenkins is the first defensive signing for the Raiders, an area they would like to improve upon after finishing 26th in total defense last season. Jenkins was limited to only 9 games last season due to injury, but has shown flashes of being a standout linebacker in the NFL. In 2014, he had career highs in tackles and sacks with 110 and 3.5 respectively. If he can produce those kinds of numbers for the Raiders, he’ll help enhance the Raiders’ depth at linebacker and bolster their defense.

Grade: B-

Rumor: RB Marshawn Lynch coming out of retirement and the Raiders acquire him

There’s been a rumor out for the last week or so that the Raiders are interested in acquiring retired running-back Marshawn Lynch from the Seahawks since they still hold the rights to his contract. Lynch retired after a frustrating 2015 season that saw him rush for a career-low 419 yards and 2 touchdowns in 7 games. Lynch, a native of Oakland, would be a great veteran presence in the Raiders locker-room, and he’s stated in the past that he has always wanted to play for the Raiders. It would also add to his legend as “Beastmode”, as he would provide the Raiders with a short-yardage ground game and improve their already potent rushing offense. In theory, this sounds like a slam dunk move for the Raiders and Lynch, a match made in heaven, a homecoming to top all homecomings.

However, I am somewhat weary of the possibility of Lynch to the Raiders. Lynch retired in 2015 due to being frustrated with the Seahawks organization and his overall lack of desire to play. Now while all of this understandably stems from the Seahawks’ 1-yard-line blunder in Super Bowl XLIX, Lynch is still a headache for any organization that signs him. Does he truly miss football as his agent said on San Francisco radio station KNBR? Only Marshawn Lynch knows the answer to that question. Considering there are other running-back options such as Adrian Peterson still out there on the free-agent market and the NFL draft looming, the Raiders may be better served looking for running-back help elsewhere.

Grade: C+

 

 

Bro-Commentary: The 5 Moves the Oakland Raiders Must Make In Free-Agency

The Oakland Raiders are just a few moves away from solidifying themselves as Super Bowl contenders for years to come.

The Oakland Raiders enjoyed a return to prominence last season, making it to the postseason for the first time since 2002 when they reached the Super Bowl. For the last decade and a half, free agents in the NFL avoided the Raiders at all costs, seeing it as a destination where careers go to die. This off-season, however, the Raiders appear to be a premiere destination for free agents, seeing the Raiders as a team on the rise. On top of that, the Raiders don’t have as many glaring needs as they’ve had in past off-seasons. That being said, if the Raiders want to legitimize themselves as Super Bowl contenders for years to come, these are the 5 moves the Raiders must make this free agency period.

5. Sign a ILB

One position the Raiders have played musical chairs with the past few seasons has been the Inside Line Backer position. They drafted Ben Heeney in the 2015 NFL Draft, but he has had injury issues and has been a liability in coverage situations. Curtis Lofton was a bust free agent signing for them in 2015, and was promptly released. Perry Riley Jr. played well for the Raiders this past season, but it seems the Raiders are comfortable letting him walk. Same goes for Super Bowl 48 MVP Malcolm Smith, who had a career year in 2015 for the Raiders, but regressed mightily in 2016 and has become a major coverage liability for the Raiders.

The Raiders should take a look at Patriots ILB Dont’a Hghtower, but not overpay him. Hightower is a tremendous talent, but has an extensive injury history. Pittsburgh Steelers ILB Lawrence Timmons, while 31-years-old, could also be an option. The Raiders need to add a play-maker as it pertains to the ILB position, as it will bolster their defense that needs to improve.

4. Sign DT Calais Campbell or NT Dontari Poe

While the Raiders have already tendered DT Denico Autry, they still need help along their front seven. Adding a veteran presence like Arizona Cardinals DT Calais Campbell (8.0 Sacks in 2016) would not only improve their pass rush which ranked last in the NFL with 25 Sacks, but also add a locker room leader as well. If he’s not available or too expensive, the Raiders should poach NT Dontari Poe from the Kansas City Chiefs. He had a down year last season due to a back injury, but he’s younger and would still improve the Raiders’ defensive line. Plus, he’d be one less player to fret over when playing the Chiefs.

3. Add to the Secondary

The Raiders thought they struck gold by signing CB Sean Smith last season. While Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 18th best CB in the NFL last season, he recorded only 2 interceptions and got beat BADLY at times in 2016 (*see Week 1 98-yard TD allowed against Saints WR Brandin Cooks, Week 2 against Atlanta Falcons WR  Julio Jones, Week 15 47-yard TD allowed against Los Angeles Chargers WR Travis Benjamin*). CB David Amerson is a solid 2nd string CB, but at times he was asked to play like a 1st string CB, a position he is at best average. CB D.J. “Toast” Hayden is not getting re-signed due to injury issues and being burnt like toast one too many times since being drafted 12th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. The Raiders need to add another CB to assist their secondary. There are options out there for the Raiders, namely Houston Texans CB A.J. Bouye, New England Patriots CB Logan Ryan, and Jacksonville Jaguars CB Prince Amukamara.

2. Sign RB Adrian Peterson, For the Right Price

Rumor has it the Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has narrowed his interest down to two teams: the Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks are a viable option for Peterson, but have an offensive line that needs a lot of work, not exactly a dream scenario for a veteran RB. The Raiders on the other hand, have one of the best offensive lines in football, and ranked 6th in the league in rushing offense with 120.1 yards per game in 2016. Yes, Peterson was limited to only 3 games and rushed 37 times for 72 yards last season due to a knee injury. Yes, Peterson is 31-years-old. This is why I caution the Raiders not to overpay Peterson should he choose to sign with them. He’s looking for $4-$6 million per year, a significant reduction in salary considering he was due to make $18 million this season had he remained with the Vikings. If he can stay healthy, the Raiders would add another weapon to their already explosive offense should he choose to join the Silver and Black.

1. Extend DL Khalil Mack and QB Derek Carr

Some moves don’t need that much explaining.The 2 pillars of the franchise, DL Kahlil Mack and QB Derek Carr, need to be locked down for the long term.

Defensive Player of the Year winner Khalil Mack ( 73 tackles, 11 sacks, 5 FFs , 1 INT, 1 TD) has a 5th year option, which the Raiders should have picked up… yesterday. After doing so, they need to sign him to an extension. It’ll more than likely make him one of the highest paid defensive players in the NFL, and he’s worth every penny.

QB Derek Carr (3,937 YDS, 28 TDS, 6 INTS,  63.8 CMP%) was an MVP candidate before breaking his Fibula in Week 16 against the Indianapolis Colts. He’s the franchise QB the Raiders have searched desperately for since their Super Bowl season in 2002, when QB Rich Gannon was under center and won NFL MVP honors. There may now be questions as to whether or not he can stay healthy, but he makes the offense go. He should be rewarded a contract extension this off-season as well.