The biggest story lines from the Raiders schedule in 2022

Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times

The 2022 NFL schedule was released this week. With that comes record predictions, ticket-purchasing, and more storylines than anyone can keep track of.  The Raiders schedule is no different. It showcases a matchup against the reigning Super Bowl champions, a revenge game 50 years in the making, and more AFC West matchups than your heart can handle. So, let’s look at three of the biggest storylines to keep track of in 2022.

Week 1: Las Vegas Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers

It’s the game you’ve been waiting all offseason for. The Raiders will head to SoFi Stadium for their first game of the season to try and take down Justin Herbert and a revamped Charger’s defense.

As you may remember, the Raiders beat the Chargers in the last regular season game of the 2021 season, sending the Silver and Black to the playoffs, and ending the Bolts season without a second thought. Los Angeles has spent the duration of the offseason trying to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Since the two teams last met, they have added numerous Pro-Bowlers to their defense including J.C. Jackson, Kyle Van Noy, and former Raider, Khalil Mack.

Mack, who spent the first four seasons of his career with the Raiders, was traded to Los Angeles this offseason. He is infamously known for being a player Raider Nation saw leading the team to their next Super Bowl win. That is, until the former regime sent him off to Chicago. Since leaving Oakland, Mack’s statistics have declined. However, his game-changing talent and sure-fire want for revenge is still cause for concern in Las Vegas.

On top of being a revenge game for many reasons, the Raiders second home is in Los Angeles. It’s not uncommon for Raider Nation to take over SoFi stadium and make it their own, adding fuel to the fire.

Week 15: New England Patriots @ Las Vegas Raiders

While there are numerous storylines in between Week 1 and Week 15, the Patriots vs. Raiders game is what everyone will be looking forward to. Head coach Josh McDaniels will lead his new team out proudly (we hope), as he takes on the man that taught him everything he knows.

Before being hired as the Raiders head coach in January, McDaniels spent 13 seasons with the Patriots. He served as everything from their offensive assistant to their offensive coordinator, learning the ins and outs of coaching from one of the best in the business, Bill Belichick.

McDaniels was joined in Las Vegas by new general manager, Dave Ziegler, who also spent the previous seasons in New England. McDaniels and Ziegler wasted no time in bringing their favorite former Patriots to Sin City, making Week 15 even more meaningful.

Las Vegas has added six players this offseason who played for the New England Patriots including running back Brandon Bolden, tight end Jacob Hollister, fullback Jakob Johnson, and quarterback Jarett Stidham, among others. Along with players, McDaniels also hired several former New England coaches to his staff.

The sheer volume of Raiders that have played or coached for the Patriots is something that doesn’t go unnoticed, making Week 15 a must win game for the Silver and Black.

Week 16: Las Vegas Raiders @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Fifty years in the making, the Raiders will return to the scene of the “Immaculate Reception” one day after its half-century anniversary. If you’ve been a Raiders fan for a while, or have ever known a Raiders fan, its likely you know exactly what play we’re talking about. If not, you can read up on the controversial play, here.

No matter how much time passes, it will never be clear what happened that day. You’ll get a different story from every player, and every referee working that game. The Raiders are three Lombardi trophies better off than they were that day in Pittsburgh, but they’ll never forget. And they’ll be sure to remind the Steelers of that in December.

The Raiders schedule is tough, with a lot valuable storylines in 2022. If they want to return to the playoffs for a second consecutive year, they’ll have to prove each and every week why they deserve to be there.

Raiders trade Bryan Edwards for late-round pick

Raiders WR Bryan Edwards traded to Atlanta
Photo Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders have traded wide receiver Bryan Edwards and a seventh-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for a 2023 fifth-round pick. In 2021, Edwards caught 34 passes for 571 yards and three touchdowns per Pro Football Reference.

Edwards is entering his third year in the league after being drafted in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft. His big plays have been few and far between, but he is a reliable and hard-working player with a lot of potential. Last season, Raiders coaches even went so far as to say Edwards reminded them of Hall of Fame player, Terrell Owens. While he didn’t live up to those high standards, he did make some game-changing plays for the Raiders.

The 23-year-old receiver’s biggest impact as a Raider came during a must-win game in Week 15. The Silver and Black were visiting the Browns in Cleveland. Las Vegas sat at 6-7 with their playoff hopes on the line. Both teams had been dealing with COVID-19 breakouts, and the Raiders needed everyone to stand out. Edwards took it to heart the most as he made the play of the game in the first quarter, catching a touchdown pass over the head of the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback, Denzel Ward.

For the Raiders, they are now one step closer to finalizing their wide receivers room after a big shakeup this off-season.

Edwards will now join his former teammate, quarterback Marcus Mariota, in Atlanta. A receiving corps including Edwards, Kyle Pitts, and Drake London is sure to turn some heads in 2022.

These Raiders’ concerns still have to be addressed before Week 1

The Las Vegas Raiders have come a long way this off-season. They have found their new head coach, new general manager, next elite wide receiver, and made many more franchise-changing moves. Now, it’s been one week since the 2022 NFL Draft, and training camp is just around the corner. Las Vegas has made some big moves since February, but the Raiders concerns are becoming increasingly more clear ahead of off-season programs.

Front office stability

More than an improved defense or red-zone offense, the 2022 Raiders need stability. They pushed through the most unpredictable NFL season ever in 2021, dealing with challenges in every sense of the word. And while the playoff loss was disappointing, it also served as a reminder that stability and personnel improvement were finally on their way.

The hiring of Josh McDaniels, Dave Ziegler, and Champ Kelly was a massive step in the right direction. They brought on primarily their own staff and now have executed extensive change in the scouting department as well. All seemed to be looking brighter in Sin City, until this week when it was announced that the Raiders have parted ways with both their vice president of human resources and their team president. It is unclear what lead to the departure of both parties, but new information suggests it may be due to a hostile work environment.

In a newly released statement former president, Dan Vantrelle, suggests he was met with hostility when he brought up concerns regarding the female staff. Vantrelle made clear he stands by his actions and intends to get legal representation regarding his termination.

The Raiders have been involved in many lawsuits over the last year, which makes the latest even more disappointing.

The secondary

The Raiders added a lot of talent in free agency and the draft this year, but one group they hardly addressed was the secondary. Outside of trading for cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, Las Vegas only signed three other players to their secondary, and none of them are known to be game-changing players. For the most part, Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler have hung on the pieces that were already there for them.

While some of the pieces they have in place are solid, like Nate Hobbs, most of the pieces could use an upgrade. Starting cornerback Trayvon Mullen and safety Jonathan Abram are both coming off season-ending injuries and surgeries, making their play in 2022 relatively unpredictable.

Despite these injuries and questions, the new front office tandem decided against drafting a rookie cornerback or safety, in hopes that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham can upgrade the players he has on the payroll already, or they can find a steal in the remaining free agents.

That free agent steal may come in the form of Giants’ cornerback James Bradberry, who is rumored to be released from New York in the coming weeks. The former Pro-Bowler is coming off a season with four interceptions, more than any one player had for the Raiders in 2021. If Mullen is out for the beginning of the season, Bradberry gives the Silver and Black a fighting chance and will be a wildly dependable piece of the puzzle upon Mullen’s return.

The offensive line

Unlike the secondary, the Raiders did choose to address the offensive line during the draft. With their first pick, they took Memphis offensive guard, Dylan Parham. Parham’s skill set is unique because he brings the ability to play both center and guard. Prior to the draft, the widespread assumption was that Andre James would remain at center this season, thanks to a somewhat convincing campaign in 2021. Now, it’s less clear than ever what the starting five will look like in September.

Second-year veteran Alex Leatherwood brings his own set of questions, as he was incredibly undependable his rookie season. After playing at both right tackle and right guard, he came away without much success in either. Head coach Josh McDaniels told the media he is unsure where Leatherwood will play next season, but sees him as a “contributor”.

The questions at center come with equal questions at both guard and tackle. The only solidified position on the front line seems to be left tackle, Kolton Miller. Thankfully, with a new offensive line coach comes new hope for an improved line.

The Raiders live in the hardest division in football, inside the hardest conference in football. Their successes and downfalls next season will come at the hands of the problems still unsolved. If they can choose to make smart decisions and do the right thing, these Raiders’ concerns should be mitigated by September.

Derek Carr receives multi-year extension

Las Vegas Raiders, QB, Derek Carr
Las Vegas Raiders, QB, Derek Carr (Photo by Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr became the fifth highest-paid quarterback in the NFL with a multi-year contract extension. The extension was rumored to be in the works since the hiring of head coach Josh McDaniels, but now it’s official. The contract ties Carr to the Raiders through the 2025 season.

The contract’s fine print

Like most NFL contracts, Carr’s new deal can be interpreted in many ways. At face value, it is a 3-year, $121.5 million signing. Because his current contract still has one year remaining, this ties him to the Raiders for four more seasons.

Carr’s contract averages out to around $40 million per season, but each year is extremely different. In 2022, Carr will earn a base salary of $17.3 million. That number nearly doubles in 2023 to $32 million. It is not until 2024 that he will receive $41 million a season per Sportrac.

Over the course of the next three seasons, Carr’s cap hit will sit at $19 million, $34 million, and $43 million respectively. Despite the impressive annual salary, this deal is extremely team-friendly. The Raiders franchise quarterback told the media after signing his deal that his goal was to ensure the team had money remaining to extend guys like Hunter Renfrow and Foster Moreau.

The contract includes a no-trade clause, meaning the Raiders are unable to deal Carr without his approval. His 2023 salary will become fully guaranteed just three days after the 2022 Super Bowl, putting Carr firmly in the driver’s seat. Extending Carr saves the Raiders around $500,000 in cap space this season, and finally eliminates any questions of what the new front office regime is thinking.

What does this extension mean to Carr?

Carr has long been committed to the Raiders, telling the media, “I’ve only wanted to be a Raider. I told my agent, I’m either gonna be a Raider or I’m gonna be playing golf, I don’t wanna play anywhere else. That’s how much this place means to me”.

The nine-year veteran will now have four more seasons in the Silver and Black to play for the Super Bowl ring he set out to win all those years ago. Now, he has a new contract, his best friend as his WR1, a new regime, and new hope to bring a championship to Sin City.

Free Agency Week 2: The Raiders continue adding depth to their roster

Former Seahawks TE Jacob Hollister was signed by the Raiders in free agency
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Last week, the Raiders made a few big splashes in free agency. They signed Pro-Bowl linebacker and Super Bowl champion Chandler Jones, All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams, and added many more game-changing pieces to their roster. Heading into week two, the focus seemed to be continuing to add depth behind their impressive starting players.

More offensive additions

Las Vegas opened week two of free agency by signing a QB, Garret Gilbert. Gilbert is highly familiar with the Raiders’ new front office after spending time on the Patriots and Raiders practice squads previously. He is heading into his ninth year in the league. Gilbert is in line to back up Derek Carr, as they are the only two QBs on the Raiders roster currently.

Josh McDaniels is famous for loving his tight ends and that can be seen clearly in what he has done during his time in Las Vegas already. The Raiders headed into free agency with TEs Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, and Nick Bowers on the roster. This week, they added Jacob Hollister to that list. Hollister is a sixth-year veteran coming off his lone season for the Jaguars. He has 83 career receptions for 707 yards and seven touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference.

Last week, the Silver and Black added one of the best wide receivers in the league when they traded for Davante Adams. This week, they added some depth at wide receiver by signing Demarcus Robinson. Robinson spent the previous six seasons with AFC West rival the Kansas City Chiefs. He is coming off a season with 264 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Robinson inked a 1-year contract on Tuesday.

Defense is still the focus

In 2021, the Raider’s defense was much improved over the last three seasons. They ended the year ranked 26th  per PFT. This is a significant improvement from 2020 and 2019 when they ranked 31st. To continue their upward trend, they knew they needed to add some force to their roster this offseason. Chandler Jones and Rock Ya-Sin were the first dominoes to fall, but they aren’t anywhere close to done.

After releasing Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski, the Las Vegas linebacker corps was looking thin. They addressed that this week with the additions of Micah Kiser and Kyler Fackrell. Fackrell joins the Raiders after one season with the Chargers, in which he appeared in 13 games. Kiser spent the 2021 season with both the Broncos and Rams, appearing in 11 total games throughout the season.

Along with LB, the Raider’s interior defensive line was lacking. They had a whopping four defensive tackles hit the open market after the 2021 season, and they haven’t brought back any of them. On Tuesday, they partially addressed this need with the addition of DT Kyle Peko. Peko spent 2021 with the AFC’s top seed, the Titans. He appeared in eight games, starting three. 2021 was his best season and now he gets the chance to improve in the Silver and Black.

As free agency trucks along, the Raiders have roughly $15 million left in cap space. Their big-name signings may be done, but look for Dave Ziegler and McDaniels to continue adding depth before the 2022 NFL Draft begins on April 28th.