Brooks: Adding blue-chip free agents helps Raiders take next step toward ultimate goal

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Improving from a good team to a great team is one of the hardest things to accomplish in the NFL, but the Raiders are preparing to make the jump after adding a few pieces to a playoff team that narrowly lost to the AFC Champions in the wild-card round.

Although there are no guarantees in this business, the teams that ultimately compete for the championship are constantly looking to improve the roster by any means necessary. The Raiders' new regime has already shown a willingness to take advantage of opportunities to add blue-chip players to the lineup, as evidenced by the blockbuster signings of Davante Adams and Chandler Jones.

By adding a pair of former All-Pros, the Raiders have inched closer to trotting out a team with enough blue-chippers to compete at a championship level. Adams is universally recognized as the No.1 receiver in football with a polished game that enables him to anchor an offense as an unstoppable force on the perimeter. The ninth-year pro has tallied 100-plus catches and 1,300-plus receiving yards in three of the past four seasons with 47 touchdowns during that span.

As a crafty route runner with outstanding balance, body control and short-area quickness, Adams is a headache for opponents ill-equipped to deal with a five-star WR1. The veteran consistently gets against single and double teams, and his presence creates opportunities for others on the backside. Considering Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow are established all-stars with the capacity to put up big numbers against tilted coverage, the Raiders' offense will put opposing defensive coordinators in a bind when they are crafting their game plans for the week.

If Adams receives extra attention, Waller and Renfrow will go bonkers against overmatched defenders in the slot and out wide. Derek Carr will simply play "pitch and catch" to the pass-catcher facing a favorable matchup, and there is really nothing opponents will be able to do about it with three big-time playmakers on the field.

If opponents opt to play the Raiders straight up or utilize brackets or double coverage to neutralize No. 13 and No. 83, Adams will torch opponents who grant him free access and single coverage. Given the telepathic connection that he enjoys with Carr, opponents are asking for trouble when leaving a cornerback on the island against the veteran.

On defense, Jones' arrival fortifies a pass rush that already features an emerging star in Maxx Crosby. The 11th-year pro is a sack machine off the edges with 107.5 career sacks, including 71.5 during a six-year stint with the Cardinals. The two-time All-Pro is a model of consistency as a pass rusher with 10-plus sacks in seven of his 10 seasons, and 33 career forced fumbles in 139 games.

The steady production and relentless effort from the veteran make him the perfect partner for Crosby. As a blue-collar rusher who wins with fanatical effort and violent hands, the fourth-year pro will face more one-on-ones and rack up plenty of garbage sacks with opponents paying close attention to Jones on the other side. Keep in mind that Crosby was the center of attention in 2021 with opponents frequently sliding pass protection to his side and taking their chances against Yannick Ngakoue.

Those tactics will likely change with offensive play-callers paying close attention to Jones' whereabouts based on his disruptive potential. In a division that features exceptional quarterback play, the Raiders' decision to upgrade the pass rush gives them a better chance of harassing Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Russell Wilson in key games down the stretch. Moreover, the addition of Jones gives the Raiders' defense more ammunition to deal with the "Murderer's Row" of quarterbacks in the AFC.

After falling short in the playoffs a season ago, the Raiders are committed to making an extended run this season. With a couple of veteran blue-chip players joining the party, the Raiders are ready to take the next step on their championship journey.

View exclusive photos of players arriving for the start of the 2022 voluntary offseason program.

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