Photo Credit: ProFootballNetwork

In Plain Sight: The Las Vegas Raiders Rebrand Continues


After the “stay at home” NFL Draft, the newly dubbed Las Vegas Raiders walked away with what may have been the best draft class this year.


The Silver and Black were able to corral young star talents like Alabama Crimson Tide star wide receiver Henry Ruggs III and Ohio St. Cornerback Damon Arnette in the first round of the draft to fill critical vacancies in the team’s current roster.


2020 NFL Combine - Las Vegas Raiders Rebrand
Photo Credit: Las Vegas Raiders

Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden again have put on a clinic for the average NFL fan to marvel at with the ability to build up the talent of the Raiders under their careful supervision. It has been so impressive that one could compare it to the team-building skills of legendary Hall of Fame head coach Jimmy Johnson. Johnson made shrewd trades and drafted exceptionally well to form his Super Bowl-winning Dallas Cowboys of the ’90s.



Remember when Jimmy Johnson acquired two NFL Hall of Famers and a Super Bowl MVP for one Herschel Walker?


The haul of draft picks the Cowboys received for Walker turned out to be Emmitt Smith, Alvin Harper, Darren Woodson, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith, Stan Smagala, Clayon Holmes, and allowed them to trade for running back Alonzo Highsmith. Highsmith played for Johnson at the University of Miami. This trade became the foundation of the Cowboys teams of the 90s that had so much success.

Smith, the NFL’s All-Time leading rusher, and Woodson are both in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while Harper was a key contributor to two Cowboys Super Bowl victories. Maryland, who was the first overall pick in the 1991 NFL draft, was a steady anchor to the Cowboys defensive line. Smith started at left cornerback late in his rookie season and continued to do so until the 2000 season. He won three Super Bowls and was a solid cornerback opposite of Deion Sanders.



Las Vegas Raiders Defense - Las Vegas Raiders Rebrand
Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites –  Franchise Sports Media

Gruden hopes to have made a similar trade of his own when he traded Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. The Raiders ended up acquiring Josh Jacobs, Trayvon Mullen, Hunter Renfrow, Damon Arnette, and Bryan Edwards for Mack, and what turned out to be Cole Kmet and Arlington Hambright. Jacobs, Mullen, and Renfrow all played exceptionally well during their rookie year, and the team has high expectations for Arnette and Edwards, the two rookies drafted this year.

This also solidifies that the Raiders made the right decision trading Mack, in my opinion. Not only did the Raiders get (and hit on) the draft choices, but they added additional salary-cap space that allowed them to sign Trent Brown, Tyrell Williams, Corey Littleton, Nick Kwiatkoski, Maliek Collins, Carl Nassib, Damarious Randall, and Jeff Heath to give them a more complete and deep roster. In all, the Raiders traded Mack, Kmet, and Arlington for five draft choices and at least eight free-agent signings.


In Gruden’s three years running the team, the Raiders have acquired a tremendous amount of talent via trades and shrewd free-agent signings. In two drafts, general manager Mike Mayock has addressed issues with the team at the defensive end, wide receiver, safety, and running back positions. At the same time, Mayock used free agency to pick up underrated veterans such as linebacker Corey Littleton from the Los Angelas Rams and quarterback Marcus Mariotta from the Tennessee Titans to back-up Derek Carr.

Add other names to that pot like; tight end Jason Witten, wide receiver Nelson Agholor, and the defensive back Randall, the 2020 offseason has been very good to the Raiders. That type of improvement didn’t start overnight. The very first year that Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden worked together to begin building a winning Raiders culture, both men decided to step backward to go forward.

In the eyes of many fans, the decision by Gruden and then GM Reggie Mckenzie made to trade impact players like Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper was ridiculous. Why trade the two of the only three players making the most significant difference on the field contributing to the team’s success? Building a team in the NFL is complicated. It takes a willingness by everybody in the building to sacrifice for the whole organization to succeed. Much like how former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady repeatedly took pay cuts to allow head coach Bill Belichick to pay young talent so they could keep winning championships.


In reality, both Cooper and Mack wanted too much money for insufficient results on the field.


Neither player had helped raise the Raiders to a consistent playoff level team, or even keep the team above .500 for multiple seasons. So changes had to be made to open up the Raiders salary cap and bring in fresh young talent, as tricky and unpopular as they may have been.


Las Vegas Raiders Rebrand
Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites – Franchise Sports media

Acquiring five first-round draft picks for two players, in a single offseason, and opening up over 15 million dollars in cap space wasn’t s sure thing by any stretch. It was a bold move by the Raiders that would soon pay off with each of those picks going to acquiring all-star college talent. The team drafted Clelin Ferrell with their pick (4th overall), then selected Jonathan Abram with the Cowboys selection and Josh Jacobs with the pick from the Bears. This began the Raiders turn around and plan for long-term, sustained success.



Even players acquired in later rounds like break out wide receiver Hunter Renfrow from Clemson contributed his rookie year with 49 receptions, 605 yard, and four touchdowns.


The Raiders, the last two offseasons, have the potential to be the best in franchise history. They are finding new, young talent to fill spots of need to achieve the franchises’ short term goal of reaching the playoffs and long term goal of winning a Super Bowl. Raider Nation should be excited about the teams present and future. We saw a glimpse of it on the HBO’s series “Hard Knocks,” last season, which featured the Raiders. Gruden, Mayock, and the Raiders coaching staff believe they are headed in the right direction. All the players on the team have bought in and are responding to coach Gruden and his staff.

With the NFL ownership deciding to expand the playoff from 12 teams to 14 starting in 2021, the Raiders have a chance of getting into the playoffs now more than ever before. The Silver and Black can put their stamp on the NFL with a young, talented team that isn’t afraid to work, grind, and let you know about it. That sounds a lot like their head coach.

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-JaRon Turner


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