The Las Vegas Raiders spent the start of free agency dismantling their expensive offensive line, trading away three high-paid starters for mid-round picks.
While most outsiders viewed the moves to deal Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson and Trent Brown as a setback for the Raiders, general manager Mike Mayock sees opportunity ahead for line coach Tom Cable to build around young players like Kolton Miller and Andre James.
“We think we’re getting younger,” Mayock said Thursday. “I’m excited and energized by what our offensive line room is starting to look like and I’m excited and energized because I think Tom Cable feels the same way. We have all the respect in the world for Rodney and Gabe and Trent, but at this point, we made a conscious decision to try to get younger, maybe a little bit more athletic and let’s go. I can’t wait to see how we react.”
The Raiders could add to that group next week in a draft rich with possibilities. Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw, Oklahoma State’s Tevin Jenkins, Southern California’s Alijah Vera-Tucker, Texas’ Sam Cosmi and Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg are among the players who could be available in the first two rounds of the draft.
But Mayock said he’s content for now with the options he has. Miller is set for the long term at left tackle after signing an extension this offseason, veteran left guard Richie Incognito is back for another season, James and free agent addition Nick Martin are competing at center, 2020 fourth-round pick John Simpson and versatile Denzelle Good are at right guard and former street free agent Jaryd Jones-Smith is a possibility to start at right tackle despite playing no offensive snaps since entering the league in 2018.
The returns on the draft have been spotty for the Raiders since coach Jon Gruden returned in 2018 and Mayock joined him as general manager the following season.
Miller is the only real contributor left from the 2018 class. The 2019 class, which featured three first-round picks, has been more productive with players like Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs, Trayvon Mullen, Maxx Crosby and Hunter Renfrow all being solid contributors, though none have become impact players.
Last year’s rookie class was a disappointment with first-round receiver Henry Ruggs III catching only 26 passes as a rookie, first-round cornerback Damon Arnette struggling and the Raiders getting little last season out of three third-round picks. Lynn Bowden Jr. was traded before the season, receiver Bryan Edwards caught only 11 passes and linebacker Tanner Muse struggled in camp adjusting from safety and then missed the season with a toe injury.
Mayock said he still believes in his two 2020 first-round picks.
“I’m excited about both of them,” Mayock said. “I don’t think there is any question in our building how talented they both are. Henry has got to get stronger. Damon has got to get stronger. They’re both spending an awful lot of time this offseason, both with the strength and also the conditioning aspects. In my mind we are going to see different guys. … We need consistency and effort and I’m a big believer in both those kids. I’m really excited to see them play this year.”
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