The offseason is here.
As a result of Oakland Raiders 27-14 loss to the Houston Texans last weekend at NRG Stadium, the Silver and Black's 2016 season officially came to a close.
While the team's end goal of winning a Super Bowl didn't come to fruition in 2016, Head Coach Jack Del Rio's group did make it to the postseason for the first time since 2002, and certainly made some noise in the AFC in the process.
Even though the Raiders won't play meaningful football again until early September, you still had some questions about the Silver and Black; now it's time for some answers.
Here is this week's Raiders.com Mailbag.
Kayvon V: What are the biggest offseason needs for the Raiders?
EP:I think the big one that stands out to me – as of right now – would be adding some depth at linebacker. General Manager Reggie McKenzie struck gold once again as he signed veteran linebacker Perry Riley, Jr. during the middle of the season, and as seamlessly as Riley ended up fitting into the Raiders defense, outside of him and Malcolm Smith, there wasn't a ton of depth to find at that position group in 2016. Yes, rookie Cory James, and even special teams stalwart Daren Bates filled in at times for the Raiders defense, but I think infusing that position group with some talent either via free agency or in the draft would be a good place to start for the Silver and Black. Also, be sure not to forget that after missing most of the 2016 season due to injury, Ben Heeney will look to get back in the fold in 2017. As they say, depth is crucial in the NFL, and the Raiders linebackers could use a little bit more going forward.
Cal S: Who are some big names we should know who are projected to be available at No. 24 in the NFL Draft?
EP:The end of the regular season means the start of the annual rolling out of mock drafts. As soon as the NFL's postseason tournament kicks off, it seems like outlet after outlet immediately fires off their first mock drafts of the season. That being said, be sure to come back to Raiders.com as we begin aggregating all the mock drafts in our annual Mock Draft Tracker. Anyways, back to your question of who the Raiders are being projected to take at No. 24. Well, at this point, the pundits have a wide variety of players in play for the Raiders at No. 24 ranging from Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham, to Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore. I think at this juncture in the offseason it's important to not put too much stock in which players are being linked to the Raiders because they'll inevitably change countless times between now and April 27. Heading into 2017, there are no gaping holes on the Raiders roster, so Reggie McKenzie will have a little flexibility with what he decides to do in the first round.
Mickey M: Which Raiders are expected to be free agents in the offseason?
EP:As Head Coach Jack Del Rio said in his final press conference of the season, one of the few constants in the NFL is change. The business of the NFL makes it nearly impossible to keep an entire roster intact from year to year, and the Raiders are no exception to that rule. When free agency officially kicks off March 9 at 1:00 p.m. PT, the Silver and Black will have 13 players who are unrestricted free agents. Those players are as follows: safety Nate Allen, linebacker Daren Bates, long snapper Jon Condo, cornerback DJ Hayden, wide receiver Andre Holmes, quarterback Matt McGloin, defensive tackle Stacy McGee, running back Latavius Murray, linebacker Perry Riley, Jr., tight end Derek Carr, linebacker Malcolm Smith, safety Brynden Trawick, and tackle Menelik Watson. In addition to those players, defensive lineman Denico Autry will also be a restricted free agent when the new league year begins in March.
Steven V: Who is your pick to win the Super Bowl?**
EP:Does it even really matter since the Silver and Black are out of the running? In all seriousness though, it'll be an exciting few weeks for fans of the NFL, as there are a plethora of entertaining storylines to follow as the final eight teams slug it out on their way to Houston and Super Bowl LI. While I'm not big on predictions, I will say this, the New England Patriots always seem to be a force to be reckoned with in the postseason, and I'm also really interested to see who wins the Sunday clash between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys.
John C: Where did Marquette King get his dance moves?
EP:Now that is a great question, John. As long as Marquette has been a member of the Silver and Black – and likely for his whole life – the Raiders charismatic punter has walked, or in this case danced, to the beat of his own drum. King showed in 2016 that he's not only one of the most interesting punters in the NFL; he's one of the most interesting players in the league period. From his creative use of social media, to his celebratory dance moves, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who has more fun at work than the self-proclaimed KickSquad President, and if you were him, you'd probably be having fun too, since No. 7 showed that in 2016 he's one of the best punters in the NFL. As far as the origin of some of his dance moves, you'd have to ask him, but don't pigeonhole the man as just a dancer, he's a bit of a musician too.
Chris L: Evaluate Karl Joseph's rookie season and weigh the pros and cons!
EP:Pro, during the time he was on the field, the rookie safety was a dynamic force on the back end of the Raiders secondary. Con, Joseph only appeared in 12 games this season after missing nearly the entire Offseason Workout Program recovering from an injury. Even though the former West Virginia Mountaineer missed four games in his rookie campaign in Silver and Black, he still finished the season ranked fourth on the team with 76 total tackles, also tallying an interception, as well as six passes defensed, and one fumble recovery. There's no question that Joseph is an intriguing talent, so as he heads into his second season as Raider – and hopefully with the benefit of a complete Offseason Workout Program – Joseph will grow even more comfortable with what defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. is asking of him. The speedy safety showed that he has the ability to cover a lot of ground on the back end of the defense, but I think next season, I'd like to see No. 42 flash a little more of that big hit ability that he was heralded for back in his college days. All in all though, Joseph delivered a pretty solid rookie season, and Raider Nation should be looking forward to see what he has up his sleeve for 2017.
**Taylor K: Which player surprised you the most this past season?
EP:It has to be Jalen Richard, and to be fair, I don't think I'm the only one who was surprised by the season the rookie running back put together in 2016. Richard wasn't selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, and signed with the Raiders after being invited to rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. From there, the man affectionately referred to as "Rocket Richard" just made big play after big play for the Raiders, carrying the momentum of a strong training camp into the regular season. At season's end, Richard was not only the team's second-leading rusher with 83 carries for 491 yards, but he had also established himself as the Raiders primary return man as well. It's funny to think that seven months ago, most of us had never heard the name Jalen Richard before, yet now, here he is, as one of the more exciting players on the Raiders offense. After what he put on film this season, I'm really excited to see what No. 30 has in store for his second season in Silver and Black.
Lisa M: I have no questions, just want to thank the whole organization for an amazing football season!!! #ReturnToGreatness #RaiderNation
EP:It was a lot of fun this year, but I have a feeling that 2017 could spell even bigger things for the Raiders. Stay tuned.