Philadelphia Eagles: Raiders rocky rebuild highlights Roseman’s genius

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

After trading away Kahlil Mack to start of the weirder rebuilds in recent memory, maybe the Raiders could learn a thing or two from the Philadelphia Eagles

When the Oakland Raiders made the controversial decision to trade Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears for two first-round picks and additional draft compensation, it took many fans in the NFL by surprise.

Sure, the tension between Mack’s camp and the Raiders was well publicised, but there’s no way a team would trade away arguably the best pure pass rusher in the league, the next Lawrence Taylor square in his prime, regardless of the compensation.

That’s just not how you win games.

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But, maybe for the Raiders, the move wasn’t about winning games right now. Regardless of the team’s financial situation, which reportedly may have played into the decision, if you look at the Raiders team, they aren’t winning the Super Bowl anytime soon.

So why not blow it up?

Why not pull a Philadelphia 76ers and move on from arguably your most valuable asset to instead secure premium draft capital in the hopes of building a deeper team moving forward? You already have two of the most important pieces in place for a winning team, a franchise quarterback and a long-term head coach, so why not focus on the future instead of the present?

Because the Raiders are doing it wrong.

A few years ago, the Philadelphia Eagles and Oakland Raiders had a lot in common, a pair of middle of the road teams with no real chance to win the Super Bowl, but no real chance to secure premium talent at the top of the draft either.

While Oakland did get lucky and secured their franchise signal-caller at the top of the second round, as some were anxious about drafting another Carr with a first-round pick, the team had largely failed to put together a contending roster around him, causing the team to regress over the past few falls. Though they have at times been able to cover up their poor drafting with free agent signings like Marshawn Lynch, Kelechi Osemele, and most recently offensive weapons like Jordy Nelson and Jared Cook, all the Raiders have done is make their team older, not necessarily better.

This, apparently, is by design.

If you tuned in to the Raiders’ Week 1 bout against the Los Angeles Rams, a team that many people feel could dethrone the Philadelphia Eagles as the Super Bowl 53 champions, you likely heard virtually every commentator discuss how Jon Gruden wants to build a winning culture with an influx of veteran leadership.

Don’t get it twisted, having veteran leadership is important on a winning team, as highlighted by the Eagles’ own locker room, but don’t rebuilding teams typically try to give extra snaps to young, developing players, as opposed to established veterans? Very rarely do 30-year-olds transform overnight into elite players, but 23-year-olds can.

The Oakland Raiders desperately needed some elite players.

Which is why I initially was kind of on board with the decision to move on from Mack in the first place. If you watched the former University of Buffalo star’s first game as a member of the Chicago Bears, you saw a defense flush with young, hyper-athletic talent. For the Bears, trading for Mack felt a lot like when the 76ers targeted LeBron James last summer: They already had the young building blocks in place and just needed a final piece to take things over the top.

For the Raiders, Mack was the only piece, not the final piece.

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Don’t get me wrong, the Raiders defense has a few solid players, I personally really liked Karl Joseph coming out of college, but with Mack gone they have absolutely nothing that will prevent opposing teams from putting up 40 week-in and week-out.

For how big of an offensive genius Jon Gruden may be, he’s short-sightedly forgotten the age-old adage that ‘the best offense is a good defense’.

Look once more to the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, for proof.

Not only did the Eagles have one of the best defenses in football, but the team also had one of the deepest rosters in football to back it up.

Outside of their two elite players, Fletcher Cox and Malcolm Jenkins, the Eagles defense is jam-packed with top-tier talent, like a defensive line highlighted by Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett, a trio of young defensive backs in Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, and Sidney Jones, and arguably the best coverage linebacker duo in the league in Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks.

When Timmy Jernigan eventually returns from injury, who’s the defense’s weakest link? Base package weakside Kamu Grugier-Hill? That kind of depth is impressive, and a major reason why the Eagles won the Super Bowl last season.

Even though the team sustained major injuries all over their depth chart, Howie Roseman‘s expertly crafted roster helped to soften the blow. And it wasn’t just old players either, as the Eagles roster was and still is a cornucopia of players at different stages of their careers.

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For every big name, big money player on the roster like Alshon Jeffery, Darren Sproles, or Brandon Graham, there’s a cheaper counterpart to help soften the blow, which allowed the team to continue to succeed regardless of who’s on the field.

What about the Raiders? The average age of their offensive starters is 29, with Marshawn Lynch, Jordy Nelson, and Jared Cook all over 30. And behind them? Not a single blue chip prospect. Sure, the team does have Amari Cooper, who some would argue has the potential to be an elite wide receiver, but the team currently has 29-year-old ex-Muscle Hamster Doug Martin backing up Lynch, 30-year-old Lee Smith backing up Cook, and no true heir to Nelson at receiver outside of journeymen Dwayne Harris and Brandon LaFell.

That’s not how you succeed.

So, with 28 of the team’s 53 players currently either signed to one-year deals or are in the final year of their deals, how are the Raiders going to build for the future?

Sure, the team now has draft picks, but based on their front office’s currently screwed system on how to rebuild a roster, that doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence.

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No, by flipping Mack for a pair of future draft picks, the Raiders did the opposite of what the Philadelphia Eagles accomplished when they traded roughly the same compensation to draft Carson Wentz second overall: They traded in a bluechip prospect in hand for a pair of future lottery picks, with no clear plan. Maybe Jon Gruden could learn a thing or two from Howie Roseman.