Raiders, Browns climbing out of misery this offseason
Two teams that have hit home runs during NFL free agency are previous cellar dwellers, the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns.
The Black and Silver posted a 4-12 mark in 2018 and have an 85-171 record for the past 15 seasons. The last winning season for the Raiders was a 12-4 campaign in 2016. It may not be time for a total turnaround just year for the vagabond franchise but many moves are being made to shake up the mix.
It’s quite obvious Jon Gruden is now driving the bus but the head coach has help now from new GM Mike Mayock, who has come aboard ready to act. Their early moves indicate that the organization is intent on moving into the upper echelon.
The Raiders also own three first round selections in the first 27 picks of the upcoming NFL draft and five overall choices in the top 106 slots. Immediate help is available.
Adding Antonio Brown, the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver, is intriguing. He has 837 catches for 11,207 yards and 74 career touchdowns. The 31-year old cost them third and fifth round picks, which was a steal.
Also, former Chargers wideout Tyrell Williams was added through free agency, a move which flew under the radar but could prove wise.
Gruden and company also dropped a bundle on free safety Lamarcus Joyner, 28, who comes off making 78 tackles last season and has 305 career stops with 25 pass breakups to his credit.
Former Patriot starting left tackle Trent Brown (6-8, 360), only 25 years old, was considered the fourth best overall free agent available. He made 44 starts in New England. Brown fills a huge void at left tackle for Oakland.
The team hopes that former LSU edge rusher Arden Key, a 2018 third rounder, lives up to his billing after recording only one sack in 2018. Several second-year offensive linemen and defenders from the last Raiders draft are expected to take big steps forward.
In another part of the AFC, the Browns are making even bigger NFL waves.
Cleveland managed a 7-8-1 record in 2018 after suffering through an overall 38-122 mark the past 10 seasons. The Dawg Pound hasn’t seen a winning season since the 10-6 effort in 2007. But now the Browns should be a force in the AFC North.
An explosive offense and suffocating defense could emerge together this fall. Second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield didn’t start until week three as a rookie but had 3,725 yards passing, 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He burned the Texans for 397 yards among his breakout moments. In two meetings against the Ravens, he threw for 718 yards.
Added to the targets Mayfield can target is perhaps the best in the NFL. Via a trade, receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. comes to Cleveland, joining former LSU teammate Jarvis Landry. Put those two proven stars with emerging tight end David Njoku ,w ho chipped in with 56 grabs for 639 yards and 4 scores, and you have a dynamic passing game in waiting.
Running back Kareem Hunt will have to sit out the first eight games in 2019, but it will be a daunting task for defenses to handle the ex-Chiefs star and Nick Chubb, the second-year back who tallied 976 yards on 5.2 yards per tote with eight touchdowns, as a formidable running tandem.
On the defensive side, pass rush specialist Olivier Vernon and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson have arrived in the offseason to team with defensive end Myles Garrett (13.5 sacks in 2018) and tackle Larry Ogunjubi (5.5 sacks). I’m sure the Browns are not done on that side of the ball either.
Now, is new head coach Freddie Kitchens capable of guiding the Browns to long-unchartered waters of success? He seems to have the tools in place to do it.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…