The Black Hole: Go Inside Las Vegas Raiders Football

Each week at Sports Illustrated's Raider Maven we take you inside the Silver and Black with the latest inside information from the NFL's elite franchise
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Henderson, Nev.--People are hungry for information on their beloved Las Vegas Raiders, and I am here with a smorgasbord of food.  Let's dig right into the latest on your beloved Silver and Black.

I get a lot of nuggets and information that alone are not big enough for a story. When I have a few that I can assemble, I will, and when I only have one or two, I will post them on our community page. So, welcome to The Black Hole.

I can tell you this; Raider Nation has a ton to be excited about. This article is already long, or I could give you many more reasons and players to be excited about. Keep your eyes out for the next "Black Hole," and please tell your friends about it by sharing on social media.

  • This free agency cycle is going to have a massive impact on the NFL Draft for the Silver and Black.
  • Talking to multiple people around the league, you continue to hear how active the Raiders are.  They have the ability to move up, or make a trade and move down.  I am not trying to be political, but I wouldn't be shocked if they moved up, stayed put, or moved down.  Each day, the Raiders are evolving.
  • While I certainly understand the Raider Nation's frustration, let's take a second and discuss the offensive line.
  • Rodney Hudson, in my opinion, and that of many around the league, is that he is the best center in football.
  • Hudson didn't leave angry with the organization or mad at teammates, but he wanted out.
  • The Raiders were able to accommodate him and get a third-round pick in exchange.
  • That is a huge deal.
  • Part of the reason that the Raiders were willing to honor Hudson, other than that he was an honorable man while with the team, was because of what was behind him.
  • Raider Maven told you last year that the Raiders liked his backup, Andre James. That hasn't wavered, and while they didn't want to lose Hudson, that made it more accessible.
  • James was a UFA out of UCLA and hadn't garnered Raider Nation's respect, but it was another success for GM Mike Mayock in 2019.
  • With the re-signing of Richie Incognito and Denzelle Good, the Raiders are nowhere near the hardship case many fans are thinking they are.
  • As of right now, here is the projected Raiders starting lineup on the offensive line next year: LT Kolton Miller, LG Richie Incognito C Andre James, RG John Simpson, RT Denzelle Good.
  • It is also important to remember that Richie Incognito can slide to the center, and Denzelle Good can move to the guard.
  • I still look for the Raiders to continue to address the offensive line in free agency and the draft.
  • I reported in January while co-hosting on Raider Nation Radio that an NFL GM had told me they expected Nelson Agholor to re-sign with the Raiders for two-years and $15 million.
  • At the time, I also said that my critics often overlooked that, "He will test the open market and if someone is willing to overpay, he will take it."
  • If you ask the New England Patriots, I am sure they would disagree that they overpaid, but Nelson is now in Boston.
  • He is a super young man, and the Raiders wanted him back, and he wanted to be here, but he couldn't turn down that money. Congratulations to him.
  • However, the Raiders signed John Brown, and that was a steal. His stats are better than Agholor's, and the Raiders got him at an excellent price.
  • While I am not hesitant to praise Agholor, one NFL member of management told me: "If I was Mike (Mayock) I would have traded Nelson for Brown. They upgraded."
  • Now that the Raiders have re-signed Zay Jones, the Raiders seem to have their wide-receiver house in order.
  • That group consists of the aforementioned John Brown, Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards, Henry Ruggs and Zay Jones. That is a substantial group.
  • I like that the Raiders re-signed linebacker Nicholas Morrow. He is an excellent presence in the locker room and a player with a strong work ethic. 
  • Let’s move on to Trent Brown. The Raiders paid him what the best right tackle in the NFL deserved.
  • It is also fair to say that a medical mishap that sidelined him for a time was not his fault.
  • When he failed to wear his contact tracer, I can tell you that in the locker room, more people were angry at him than in the management suite.
  • I know Brown had teammates questioning his commitment to play.
  • While liked by his teammates, I do not feel there will be many tears that he won’t be on in the locker room with them.
  • Being he was one of the highest-paid players, and his “influence” on younger players was not what you want. Again, not talking about integrity, but just talking about examples.
  • I already referenced the Raider being able to trade Rodney Hudson.  Now we know that they traded Gabe Jackson as well.  The Raiders picked up a fifth-round pick in 2021 for Jackson.  The fact they were going to cut him, whatever they got is a very big deal.
  • I have had more than one NFL franchise management member tell me that they believe Trevor Lawrence is the best quarterback in the NFL Draft.
  • I have also had multiple tell me that they do not think there is much of a drop-off from him to Zach Wilson.
  • One of them, with tremendous success picking quarterbacks, told me: "In our scale of players being graded from a 10.0 to a 0.0 we have exactly .1 difference between the two. If I was picking a quarterback this year, (and he isn’t) I wouldn’t care which one I had." Another said: "I think five quarterbacks go in the first round this year. We only have three with first-round grades. I guess that is why we don’t get high picks; we understand the draft."
  • In case you are curious, his three quarterbacks with first-round grades are Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance.
  • I know that last part wasn’t Raiders, but I thought you would love the information.
  • I started in week six talking about the coming salary cap apocalypse. I also said all season on Raider Nation Radio that the organization had done a superb job of setting themselves up to get under the cap significantly and painlessly.
  • That is why as people are screaming that Rome is burning, readers of Raider Maven are relaxed.
  • The free-agent acquisition of linebacker Yannick Ngakoue was a very big deal.  It was the Raiders being aggressive and getting their guy.
  • I am very intrigued by the signing of DT Quinton Jefferson.  I like his game and motor. The battle for playing time in the defensive line room is heating up.
  • Add to it the signing of DT Solomon Thomas.  He intrigues me.  A bad ACL injury ruined last season, but if he is healthy in 2021, the Raiders stole him.
  • Coach Jon Gruden is taking a ton of heat on social media. I understand that. It is the nature of that medium.

  • On another note, Gruden has taken heat from a former person who worked with him. So I reached out to a great friend who worked with Gruden in Tampa and asked him for an honest assessment of what working for Gruden is like.

  • He told me: “It is tough, it is brutal. Jon is a competitor, but you need to understand that he is harder on himself than anyone. If you are a competitor, working for Jon is fun. You have a coach who demands more out of himself than anyone. If you can’t handle Jon, then don’t take a job making a ton of money and you don’t want your feelings hurt. I loved it. Not one time did I see him through people under the bus for his failures? He is a man, I respect the hell out of Jon.”

  • The Raiders are buyers in the present NFL. That doesn’t mean they are going to spend like a freshman in college with their first credit card.

  • The Raiders have plenty of money to be buyers for a significant time.  That is going to be very critical moving forward.

  • I asked some members of NFL franchise management to assess the job Gruden and Mike Mayock have done.

  • With all they have done so far, the only consensus mistake was the only move that they all agreed was a stretch was the signing of Carl Nassib.

  • Where are all of the Raiders fans holding the media accountable for the article talking about Jon Gruden and Derek Carr, and how the Raiders wanted to move on and Gruden didn't like him?  

  • A lot of people owe Jon Gruden and Derek Carr apologies.

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