What the Las Vegas Raiders’ Plan of Attack Must Be for the 2022 NFL Offseason

As the 2021 NFL season provided no shortage of nuclear shockwaves, the Las Vegas Raiders proved they are the league’s strongest cockroach.

Nothing, no matter how serious, prevented the Raiders from reaching the AFC playoffs as a wild-card team. Interim head coach Rich Bisaccia did his best to keep the ship steady following Jon Gruden’s resignation in October. Receivers Bryan Edwards and Zay Jones filled in admirably on an offense that lost tight end Darren Waller to injury and released receiver Henry Ruggs after a DUI arrest in November.

Although the Raiders reached the playoffs with a 10-7 record, Las Vegas lost to the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card Round. The franchise now enters the offseason with plenty of questions, including the long-term futures of Bisaccia and veteran quarterback Derek Carr, who threw the game-sealing interception in his postseason debut.

Here’s the plan of attack the Raiders should follow during the 2022 NFL offseason.

Biggest offseason questions

Before the Raiders do anything, they need to address the head coaching situation. Bisaccia went 7-5 in the regular season and earned rave reviews for his ability to connect with and inspire his players, especially amid the non-stop turmoil.

However, Bisaccia has three critical strikes against him. First, he’d never been a head coach at any level before the Raiders promoted him out of necessity. The veteran special teams coordinator turns 62 in June, and the Raiders might want to pivot in a younger direction, fair or not.

More important than anything else is the Raiders’ lack of off-field discipline under Bisaccia’s watch. Two months after Ruggs’ DUI, rookie cornerback Nate Hobbs was arrested on a misdemeanor DUI charge on Monday, Jan. 3. 

According to ESPN, Bisaccia was “frustrated” when reporters asked him if the team had emphasized alcohol and decision-making following Ruggs’ arrest.

“I feel good about saying they’ve been hit over the face with distractions and things of that nature. We’re very cognizant of the city in which we live in, so I’ll leave it at that.”

Rich Bisaccia

If the Raiders do not believe players will make better decisions under Bisaccia’s watch, the organization must consider a more authoritative full-time head coach.

On another note, the Raiders must also decide what the team intends to do with Carr, who will become a free agent after next season. Neither Carr nor the Raiders have commented on if the two sides will seek an extension in the coming months.

Top free-agency decisions

Key free agents: Solomon Thomas (DT), K.J. Wright (LB), Marcus Mariota (QB), DeSean Jackson (WR), Richie Incognito (OG), Zay Jones (WR)

Outside of Thomas and Jones, most of the Raiders’ free agents likely don’t have long-term futures in Las Vegas. The third overall pick in 2017, Thomas lingered through four underwhelming seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before signing a one-year deal with the Raiders last spring. The Stanford product recorded a career-high 3.5 sacks and forced two fumbles in 17 games, all off the bench.

After arriving in a 2019 trade with the Buffalo Bills, Jones only had 34 catches and a single touchdown in his first two seasons with the Raiders. After receiving increased snaps in the season’s final month, the East Carolina product ended 2021 with 46 catches, 546 yards, and a touchdown. He also turned five catches into 61 yards and a touchdown in the Wild Card Game. Las Vegas should strongly consider bringing both players back in 2022, albeit on team-friendly deals.

Age might work against Wright, who turns 33 in July and primarily came off the bench this season. However, his leadership and championship experience make him a worthwhile candidate to return on a one-year deal.

Outside of a 75-yard touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, Jackson did nothing worthwhile. Incognito has played in two games since the start of the 2020 season and turns 39 in July. We’ll pass on both.

If Mariota doesn’t get the interest he wants on the free-agent market, he could return as Carr’s backup in 2022. The Raiders could do far worse than having the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner as a backup.

2022 NFL Draft needs and potential targets

Top picks: First round (own), second round (own), third round (own)

Draft needs: IOL, RB, LB, S, QB

As of publication, the Raiders are expected to have roughly $30.9 million in cap space when the new league year begins. Raiders general manager Mike Mayock would be wise to prioritize receivers in free agency, especially if Green Bay Packers star Davante Adams is interested in reuniting with Carr, his former Fresno State teammate. Chicago Bears star Allen Robinson also makes perfect sense for a Raiders team desperately needing a consistent No. 1 wideout.

As for the draft, Mayock’s track record still leaves much to be desired. Ruggs used both of his 2020 first-round picks on Ruggs and Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette, neither of whom are with the organization anymore. Former Clemson pass-rusher Clelin Ferrell, the fourth overall pick in 2019, has eight sacks in three years and didn’t start a game this season. If only the Raiders had selected LSU linebacker Devin White, who went one pick later and is already one of the league’s top young defenders.

The Raiders will pick must attempt addressing the offensive line or the linebackers in the first round. This receiver class is deep enough that Las Vegas can try adding players on the second and third days. Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean is an intriguing first-round option, as is Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green, who played both guard and left tackle in the SEC.

As for receivers, Georgia’s George Pickens and Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce are each intriguing second-day picks. Keep an eye on Alabama’s Jameson Williams if he falls after tearing his ACL in the national championship game. The Raiders also shouldn’t rule out Miami’s Charleston Rambo (79 catches, 1,172 yards, and seven touchdowns) if he falls to Day 3.

With respect to Josh Jacobs and his 4.2 yards per carry average in three seasons, the Raiders should target another running back on the draft’s second or third day. Notre Dame’s Kyren Williams (over 2,100 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns in the last two years) and Alabama’s Brian Robinson Jr. (1,336 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2021) both fit the bill; Robinson and Jacobs played together in Tuscaloosa from 2017-18.

Depending on what the Raiders and a potential next head coach want to do with Carr, using a Day 3 pick on a quarterback isn’t the worst idea. However, whether or not there’s a worthy quarterback is to be determined.

1 player on each side of the ball who must step up in 2022

The Raiders selected Alabama left tackle Alex Leatherwood, who was projected to go late in the first round or early in the second, 17th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. He split his rookie season playing right guard and right tackle and, according to Pro Football Focus, allowed a league-high 65 pressures.

Mayock has bombed on almost all of his first-round selections thus far. Leatherwood, who turned 23 on Jan. 5, must do everything in his power not to join the club.

Young safety Trevon Moehrig, the 43rd overall selection and a former TCU standout, impressed at times in his first NFL season. Moehrig, who turns 23 in June, had 55 tackles, an interception, and broke up six passes. We’re looking for the TCU product to build off his solid rookie year and become a pivotal building block for Las Vegas’ defense.

If the Raiders get sizable contributions from both players in 2022 and follow the rest of our offseason guide, a second straight playoff appearance doesn’t sound so unrealistic.

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