Skip to main content
Larry Brown Sports Tagline. Brown Bag it, Baby.
#pounditThursday, May 13, 2021

Articles tagged: Las Vegas Raiders

These two NFL teams have the toughest projected schedules in 2021

Jon Gruden

Nobody really knows how good or bad teams will be in the NFL from year to year. But that doesn’t stop oddsmakers from making predictions based on their analysis. One look at the NFL schedule release on Wednesday has yielded results on the teams with the most difficult projected schedules.

Oddsmakers at Sports Betting Dime use the projected win totals for teams to calculate the difficulty of a team’s 2021 schedule. Based on their formula, the Las Vegas Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers have the most difficult schedules in 2021.

The combined projected win totals for the Raiders’ opponents is 153.5. For the Steelers, it’s 152.8.

The San Francisco 49ers are projected to have the least difficult schedule with opponents win totals projected at 138.2. The Cleveland Browns are projected to have the second-least difficult schedule with opponent win totals at 141.9.

Besides playing the rest of the AFC West twice each, the Raiders will face the AFC North and NFC East teams. The Steelers will face the NFC North, AFC West, and tough teams like Buffalo, Seattle and Tennessee.

Between injuries and teams underwhelming or overperforming, a lot can change. But this gives us some ideas about schedule expectations for 2021.

Raiders reportedly had good reason for making controversial draft pick

Raiders logo

The Las Vegas Raiders were widely criticized for their selection of offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood in the first round of the NFL Draft. It turns out they reportedly had reason to believe they had to take him then or risk not getting him at all.

Leatherwood was graded as a second-round pick by a number of draft analysts, and the pick was questioned by experts such as ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. Amid widespread criticism that the pick was a reach, ESPN’s Jim Nagy reported that other teams picking between No. 20 and No. 32 had a first round grade on Leatherwood, and the lineman likely would have been a first-round pick even if the Raiders hadn’t selected him.

The pick may still prove to be a reach. However, it’s pretty clear that the Raiders weren’t the only team that saw something worthwhile in Leatherwood.

The Raiders had been having some fun on social media with the pick. Perhaps they feel more confident about that with this information.

Richard Sherman says he has spoken to these four teams in free agency

Richard Sherman

Richard Sherman continues to take his time in free agency, but the veteran cornerback says he’s been in contact with four teams.

Sherman told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith that he could still return to the San Francisco 49ers. He added that he has also been in contact with the New Orleans Saints, Las Vegas Raiders, and his former team, the Seattle Seahawks.

Sherman added that he has been waiting until after the NFL Draft to zero in on his new team, as many teams have been more focused on adding young talent that way instead of bringing in the 33-year-old.

The former Super Bowl champion seemed to have previously ruled out a return to San Francisco, but perhaps that has changed. A Seahawks reunion is also an interesting thought, and it’s something that is believed to intrigue him. He’s not as young as he used to be, but there’s little doubt Sherman could still help a contender and be a valuable member of someone’s secondary.

Raiders troll ‘draft experts’ on Twitter over Alex Leatherwood pick

Raiders logo

The Las Vegas Raiders made one of the most surprising picks of the first round of the NFL Draft, selecting Alabama offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood with the No. 17 selection. Many draft experts were shocked by the pick, as Leatherwood was rated as a likely second-round selection by prognosticators such as ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.

The Raiders certainly aren’t bothered by the critics. In fact, their social media team openly had some fun with it, taking a shot at said draft experts in a tweet sent Friday.

The Raiders have become notorious for reaching in the draft. 2019 first-round pick Clelin Ferrell and 2020 first-rounder Damon Arnette were also big surprises that weren’t ranked anywhere near where they were taken, at least according to most prognosticators. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but neither Ferrell nor Arnette have done much to justify the Raiders’ faith so far.

Raiders GM Mike Mayock has heard the critics before. For better or worse, it’s not going to deter him from going with his instincts. That said, while he likely had nothing to do with that tweet, both Mayock and Jon Gruden will really be hoping it doesn’t come back to bite him in a few years.

Raiders open to drafting top QB in first round?

Jon Gruden

The Las Vegas Raiders have said publicly this offseason that they are very content with Derek Carr as their quarterback, but that does not mean they are ignoring the position entirely heading into next week’s NFL Draft.

The Raiders have done “extensive work” on the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft and have not ruled out taking one, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports. They currently have the No. 17 pick, but Rapoport says they are prepared to potentially take action if one of the top QBs slips past No. 10.

There are five quarterbacks that are considered a part of the top group in this year’s draft class. Trevor Lawrence is going to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Zach Wilson seems like a lock for the New York Jets at No. 2. The San Francisco 49ers will also take a QB third overall, but Mac Jones, Justin Fields and Trey Lance are all in play there.

After that, the draft becomes a bit more of a mystery. The Atlanta Falcons could take a quarterback at No. 4, but they still have Matt Ryan locked in for at least two more years. The Detroit Lions (7th), Denver Broncos (9th) and New England Patriots (15th) all pick before Las Vegas and could be hoping to take one of the top QBs.

Given what Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said about Carr last month, we doubt the Raiders would trade up for a quarterback. It is also unlikely that one of Fields, Jones or Lance would fall to them at No. 17, but it makes sense that they want to be prepared just in case.

Marcus Mariota reportedly takes pay cut with Raiders

The Las Vegas Raiders recently approached Marcus Mariota about taking a pay cut for 2021, and the quarterback has decided to accept.

Mariota is expected to sign a new contract with the Raiders that will pay him $3.5 million next season, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media. The deal includes an additional $4.5 million in incentives.

Mariota was originally owed $10.725 million for 2021, and there was talk that the Raiders were going to trade or release him if he refused to restructure. With Derek Carr cemented as the starting quarterback, Mariota probably would have preferred a trade. Perhaps there was not much interest.

It seemed like Mariota was available via trade all offseason, but there has not been a ton of interest. That likely had to do with the structure of his contract.

Mariota appeared in only one game for the Raiders last season. He landed in Las Vegas as insurance behind Carr after fizzling out with the Tennessee Titans. The 27-year-old has a career passer rating of 89.5.

Oddsmakers made an interesting prediction about where Mariota will end up this offseason, but that is not going to come to fruition.

Kenyan Drake agrees to two-year deal with Raiders

Kenyan Drake

The Las Vegas Raiders have one of the best young running backs in the NFL in Josh Jacobs, but that has not stopped them from making a big move at the position this offseason.

The Raiders agreed to a two-year contract with Kenyan Drake on Thursday. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the deal is worth up to $14.5 million with $11 million guaranteed.

Many immediately questioned why the Raiders would spend that much money on a running back when they have Jacobs, but Ian Rapoport of NFL Media notes that Jon Gruden believes Drake can play a prominent role in the passing game.

Drake exploded down the stretch for the Arizona Cardinals in 2019 after they acquired him in a trade with the Miami Dolphins. Huge things were expected of him last season because of that, but he had a fairly modest year with 955 rushing yards and 4.0 yards per carry. He did, however, score 10 touchdowns in 15 games.

Drake caught just 25 passes last year, so perhaps Gruden feels he was misused in Arizona. The 27-year-old had 50 receptions in 2019 and 53 in 2018.

Report: Marcus Mariota, Raiders likely to part ways

Marcus Mariota has been mentioned as a potential trade target for teams this offseason, but it remains possible that the veteran quarterback could soon be a free agent.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the Las Vegas Raiders have asked Mariota to take more than a $7 million pay cut for the 2021 season. Mariota is currently owed $10.725 million, and the Raiders want him to reduce his pay to $3 million.

If Mariota refuses, the Raiders will move on from him. That means they will either work to trade him or release him. It seems like Mariota has been available via trade all offseason, but there has not been a ton of interest. That likely has to do with the structure of his contract.

Mariota almost certainly won’t agree to the pay cut, as that would lock him into a backup role behind Derek Carr. If he is traded to or signs with another team, there is at least a chance he can compete for a starting job.

Mariota appeared in only one game for the Raiders last season. He landed in Las Vegas as insurance behind Carr after fizzling out with the Tennessee Titans. The 27-year-old has a career passer rating of 89.5.

Oddsmakers have already made an interesting prediction about where Mariota will end up this offseason.

Yannick Ngakoue agrees to deal with Raiders

Yannick Ngakoue

The Las Vegas Raiders generated virtually zero pass rush last season, and they have clearly made addressing that issue a top priority in free agency.

The Raiders have agreed to a contract with former Baltimore Ravens defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports. The deal is worth $26 million over two years.

Las Vegas will be Ngakoue’s fourth team in three seasons. The 25-year-old was traded from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Minnesota Vikings last summer. The Ravens then acquired him in a trade with Minnesota during the season.

Ngakoue finished with eight total sacks last season and has had at least eight in all five of his NFL seasons. He’s been one of the most consistent pass rushers in the NFL, so he should help a Raiders team that ranked in the bottom four of the NFL last season with 21 sacks as a team.

Ngakoue forced his way out of Jacksonville and even had a public spat with a team executive on social media. He wanted a long-term extension from the Jaguars and never got it, but he’s finally going to get paid the big bucks.

Trent Brown trade details: Pro Bowler returning to Patriots via Raiders

Trent Brown

Trent Brown played some of his best football with the New England Patriots prior to signing a massive contract with the then-Oakland Raiders, and Bill Belichick is now bringing back the star offensive tackle.

The Patriots and Las Vegas Raiders have agreed to a trade that will send Brown back to New England, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports. The two teams are swapping draft picks in 2022.

Brown has also reworked his contract and agreed to a new one-year, $11 million deal. He previously had two seasons and $29.5 million left on his contract, but he will now become a free agent following the 2021 season.

Brown, 27, arrived in New England via a trade with the San Francisco 49ers back in 2018. He started all 16 games at left tackle for the Patriots, who went on to win the Super Bowl. Brown parlayed that success into a four-year, $66 million contract with the Raiders.

Brown spent some time on the reserve/COVID-19 and had another frightening medical scare last season. He appeared in just five games.