HENDERSON, Nev. — Consider it one of the biggest challenges facing the Las Vegas Raiders‘ new regime. And it’s not merely a single-prong problem.
Because while general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels have to clean up what can only be considered draft misses (messes?) by previous staffs, they also have to show they have learned from those mistakes and avoid making the same ones going forward.
Consider: The Raiders have given out second consecutive contracts to six of their 68 post-Al Davis draft picks from 2012 to 2019.
Only one was a first-rounder (left tackle Kolton Miller, who was drafted by Jon Gruden and Reggie McKenzie in 2018) and one was taken in the second round (quarterback Derek Carr, who has signed a pair of extensions after being picked by McKenzie and Dennis Allen in 2014).
Two third-round picks (guard Gabe Jackson went 81st overall in 2014 and offensive tackle Brandon Parker went 65th in 2018) and a pair of fourth-rounders (defensive tackle Justin Ellis was No. 107 in 2014, while defensive end Maxx Crosby was taken No. 106 overall by Gruden and Mike Mayock in 2019) round out the list.
And when you throw in the fact that three of the Raiders’ 15 eligible first-round draft picks since 2005 have signed second deals with the team — Miller, running back Darren McFadden (drafted in 2007) and 2006 first-round defensive back Michael Huff (Las Vegas also re-signed 2016 first-round safety Karl Joseph in 2021 after Joseph spent a year with the Cleveland Browns) — it’s easier to fathom how the team has only been to the playoffs twice, losing both postseason games, since appearing in Super Bowl XXXVII … in January 2003.
Yet, as Carr said last week at the news conference announcing his three-year, $121.5 million extension — he previously signed a five-year, $125 million extension in 2017 — he wanted to make sure money was left on the table to take care of teammates in need of, yes, second contracts.
“Guys like, hopefully, Hunter [Renfrow] and Foster [Moreau],” Carr said of his slot receiver, who was a fifth-round pick in 2019, and his backup tight end, a fourth-rounder that same year. “And [hopefully] those guys can stay here the way we structured [my extension].
“I went through a heartbreak already last time I signed my contract, my best friend [Khalil Mack] left, and I didn’t want that to ever happen again. And so, this was an opportunity for me to prove to the team, to the organization, to our fans, that the way we’re going to structure this is so that we can keep everybody together and really, really have real continuity, really have something to build on. And so, for me, it was like, how do we do that?”
Plus, the Raiders will have to make decisions on whether to apply fifth-year options on their 2019 first-round picks — defensive end Clelin Ferrell, running back Josh Jacobs and safety Johnathan Abram.
“Usually in these negotiations, ‘How much money can we get?'” Carr said. “And then they’re, ‘How much can we save?’ And this was just different. There was a learning curve about it. Like, how do we make that happen to where I feel good and to where the team feels great, like, ‘Man, we can still build a championship team around you.’ And so, that was what was important to us. And hopefully this contract proves that.”
The proof, though, remains in the draft and the regime’s coming selection technique.
It is the lifeblood of any organization, and with Raiders owner Mark Davis bringing in a couple of lifelong New England Patriots in Ziegler and McDaniels to run the football side of things, expect big changes.
Such as the actual, well, draft philosophy. The Raiders do not have first- or second-round picks, thanks to the Davante Adams trade, and are not scheduled to make the first of their five selections until the third round, at No. 86 overall.
“We’re going to try to draft the best players [available],” McDaniels said at the NFL owners meetings. “I mean, if we draft three in the same position in a row, because they’re clearly the three best players when it’s our turn to draft, I mean, you make a strength stronger.
“To me, the best way to improve your team is to continue to take the right guy. Not, ‘Oh, man, we’ve got a hole on the roster, let’s take this guy just because his name says whatever position beside him.'”
And maybe, just maybe, the Raiders will find some guys worthy of second contracts that way.