They've written a State of the Union for our Broncos over at SB Nation sister site SilverAndBlackPride, where it essentially breaks down our offseason moves and then concludes by saying, "there's no reason to suspect the Broncos will be significantly worse this year than last. Part of this is due to Manning's influence, and part of it is due to Elway's aptitude for the GM position".
It's a pretty fair assessment, in my opinion, but then the ensuing comments "inspired" me to breakdown their offseason in return, although this one isn't quite so rosy. I'm being nothing but honest when I say the only shot I think they have this year is a shot at the Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes. And here's why...
Notable losses for the 2013 Oakland Raiders include the starting defense. Yep, pretty much all of it.
With the exception of Lamar Houston, who apparently couldn't find a way to get out of that burning building in time, the entire starting line picked up, packed up and got the fred out of town (DT Richard Seymour, DT Tommy Kelly, DE Desmond Bryant, and DE Matt Shaughnessy). Starting linebackers Phillip Wheeler and Rolando McClain kicked rocks as well. Starter Michael Huff (DB) was handed his walking papers, as was Shawntae Spencer (CB).
On offense, Starting QB, Carson Palmer moved along (laughing all the way to the bank... to a new bank, in Arizona), Starting WR Darrius Heyward-Bey was finally voted off the island, starting TE Brandon Myers got out just at the right time, starting guard Cooper Carlisle was cut for cap space, all-world punter Shane Lechler left the black hole, and RB Mike Goodson left as well.
Whew. Is that all?
DT Pat Sims, DT Vance Walker, LB Kelvin Burnett, LB Kaluka Maiava, LB Nick Roach, CB Mike Jenkinks,CB Tracy Porter, S Charles Woodson, S Usama Young, QB Matt Flynn, RB Rashad Jennings, KR Josh Cribbs.
A few notable veterans on the cheap, and then a few names you probably don't even recognize. All of these guys will have an excellent chance to be starters in Oakland, guys who wouldn't get much playing time elsewhere. And they still need more warm bodies. In fact, maybe you and I should fly out West for open tryouts... current and actual football skills may not necessarily be a prerequisite.
Past Mistakes and Current Cap Jail
The Oakland Raiders have been primarily drafting top-10 for like 15 years. But they've been drafting using a blindfold and a dartboard most of that time. By and large, they draft busts. Many of those busts have had big contracts. Unfortunately for the Raiders, those rookie contracts generally get paid whether the draftee is in jail or on the bench. Now in addition to paying big money for bad draftees, the front office also makes a bunch of bad decisions in free agency and in trades as well. Al Davis made Richard Seymour the highest paid defender in the league before he died in 2011, for example. About a week after he died the new brain trust traded the sun and the moon and the stars for Carson Palmer. The ripple effects of just those two Bush League moves alone are now costing new GM Reggie McKenzie roughly $23M in cap space.
That's called "dead money" boys and girls; it's money that counts against your salary cap for players that are no longer with your team.
Oakland has $46M in total "dead money" this year, and there's probably no way to really put that into context for you. It's probably a record breaking amount. Roughly 40% of their budget is being spent on players that are no longer around; it's being spent on mistakes from the past - and no amount of coaching or creativity is going to make up for that loss.
Reasons to Hope.
There aren't any. This is basically an expansion team, but without the extra draft picks or the prestige of being new.
Reasons to Cry.
The third highest paid player in Oakland is a kicker; he's making $3.8M this year. The highest paid player is a running back, a guy that's never played more than 13 games in a season - a guy that averages 9 starts per year and averaged a measly 3.3 YPC last season. These are their Super Stars, my friends... not exactly a star-studded cast of characters over in OakTown. Truth be told, there will be about 9 new starters on defense this year, many of whom you've never heard of, and then there's a whole hodgepodge of hacks coming in on offense as well.
The roster was gutted of veteran talent. Even the fourth year players who did happen to hit their stride as starters last year also hit the streets as soon as the doors flung open (Desmond Bryant, Brandon Myers for example). So when you couple that with their horrible draft history, you understand there is no youth waiting in the wings to take over all these vacant starting positions. They didn't have a first- or second-round draft pick a year ago, and even this year's first-round pick is back in the hospital. The Raiders did, however, draft a combined 6 players in the 6th and 7th rounds this year, and that wasn't an accident or coincidence. Many of them will be counted on to contribute immediately.
Dude, I'm not playing with you. Half of those late round fliers could easily be starters or at least major role players on this squad. The Raiders haven't won more than 8 games in over a decade, and they've continued making dumbdumb moves even after Mr. Davis passed away (see: Palmer, Carson). So convincing outside free agents to come sign with a team like this takes money, and the Raiders have none. They've had to scrape the bottom of the barrel in free agency, and they'll be counting on undrafted players and late-round nobodies to step in and play.
Tthere is a very good chance of them drafting a once-in-a-generation DE at #1 overall in the 2014 draft. So that's something to build the defense around, and then Matt Flynn could still turn out to be the real deal on the other side of the ball as well. Dennis Allen is a good defensive coach, and so it seems natural to assume he'll find and/or develop a couple diamonds in the rough out of this year's class of hacks and has-been's and never-will-be's. By 2014 they may have even been able to find a small nucleus to rebuild this team around. And then there's also the issue of the Raiders having roughly $50M to spend in free agency next year, which would go a long way towards making them look like a legitimate NFL team.
Let's get our laughing done while we can, because by taking all these dead money hits in one year, the Oakland Raiders have given themselves a chance to climb out of this hole rather quickly. It just won't be this year. This year, we may as well get Brock Osweiler and the rest of the B Squad teed up to play against them. And yes, my friends, they will be worse than the Chiefs and the Chargers... So don't let them tell you any differently.