With the 2018 NFL Combine now but a memory, the Oakland Raiders can move forward, focus on free agents while preparing to evaluate the talent they saw that matches with their needs for the upcoming season. With the NFL season (the off-season season) opening next week, the team and new coach Jon Gruden can focus solely on internal roster moves and NFL free agency beginning at 4pm on March 14th.
Why The Combine Matters
Make no mistake, the moves made by the Raiders over the next couple of weeks will be crucial. The Combine is an important exercise – if blown out of proportion for the average gan. Forget about the dazzling display of raw talent fans and media go bananas over. The numbers that get penciled in for the 40-yard dash or three-cone drill do little to change years worth of scouting reports and plays on the field. Fans and media salivate at the potential draft prospects and their individual feats, but it’s the meeting of the NFL minds, behind the scenes, that quietly takes center stage.
So much at what happens at the combine is done behind the scenes – outside the purview of the media and the public. It’s in these meetings vital and important conversations between teams, general managers, and coaches occurs setting up possible draft day maneuvering and free agency moves.
No other time all year will you have everyone that matters in the NFL all in one location for an extended period of time. Not even Super Bowl week. Teams are able to gauge the value of current players and those heading into free agency, and potential trades are discussed. Draft prospects are discussed and valued. And the amount of information an organization gets from the combine can make or break the team’s prospects for the upcoming NFL season.
Where Are The Raiders Post-Combine?
The big takeaway for Raiders fans is still the uncertainty surrounding some key players and at key positions heading into the second Gruden era. The team publicly supported certain players on the roster, but behind the scenes let it be know that questions still remain for players like wide receiver Michael Crabtree and running back Marshawn Lynch. Despite news reports saying they’re staying or going, we still don’t know what their fate in Oakland really is.
Other decisions still have to be made as well. Raiders roster questions like cornerback Sean Smith and possibly linebacker Bruce Irvin. Then there are must-sign (in my view) free agents like middle linebacker NaVarro Bowman.
Some of these decisions are not time-sensitive and don’t have to be made when the clock strikes and free agency and roster season opens up. But others must be made post-haste. For players like Lynch, they have time sensitive incentive triggers and that situation requires a decision be made in advance of those triggers begin pulled. While none of us truly know what McKenzie and Gruden will do, the Raiders must prepare to move on from certain players if they’re able to fill spots via free agency or the draft.
While many roster decisions are coming over the next couple of weeks, Raider Nation might need to wait until the draft to get a better sense for where the Raiders roster will stand heading into next season.
Until then, buckle your seat belt Raider Nation, it’s going to be a bumpy, emotional, and exciting ride.