It’s never glamorous, it’s never sexy — and yet, there’s nothing more important to an NFL offense than the big uglies up front. The good news for Las Vegas Raiders fans is that the front office has known this for a few years, and so they’ve put together one of the better groups in the league.
After reviewing the state of the quarterback position and the skill position guys earlier this week, we now move to the offensive line before attacking the defense next week.
Under Contract: Trent Brown, Kolton Miller, Brandon Parker, Erik Magnunson, David Sharpe, Kyle Kalis, Gabe Jackson, Richie Incognito, Denzelle Good, Lester Cotton, Rodney Hudson, Andre James
Free Agents: Jordan Devey, Cameron Hunt (ERFA)
As I mentioned above, this is a group that has benefited from solid drafting and a keen eye for roster depth. While offensive line coach Tom Cable has been heavily criticized, 2019 was a good year for him — especially when you consider that he found a guy like James while developing a former first-round pick in Miller into a solid left tackle.
As with a number of other positions, this is a group that will see most of the competition taking place in the second-string ranks and beyond.
A year ago the Raiders made Brown the highest paid tackle in the league, and a year later it made them look pretty damn smart. Many said the move was foolish when the Raiders announced that Brown would be remaining as a right tackle, but as Super Bowl champion Mitchell Schwartz pointed out, there’s no real difference between the two positions in today’s NFL.
On the other side is Miller, the often-criticized rookie who bounced back to have a sophomore campaign that left many of his doubters silent. Miller isn’t an elite left tackle — at least not yet — but even if he becomes an above-average guy, that’ll be a win in a league that is desperate for solid tackle play.
The Raiders started the offseason by re-signing the mercurial Incognito after he put together an outstanding year at 36-years-old. At one point, Troy Aikman said Incognito was the best guard in the league today and the best he has seen since Larry Allen. Because of that, he was rewarded with a two-year, $12.7 million deal.
At the other guard spot is Jackson, who’s probably the only guy on this list trending the wrong way. Jackson had such a great start to his career that many believed he would be a perennial Pro Bowler — but since then injuries and inconsistency have plagued him. He remains a good right guard, but it’ll be interesting to see if he can get a solid run of health that allows him to return to an elite level.
Rodney Hudson is the best center in the league. Period, full stop.
Again, this is a really, really strong group with no obvious flaws. Even in their depth, I think Good as about the best you could ask for in a backup guard while James showed flashes of versatility that could make him incredibly valuable moving forward. Of course there are questions at the backup tackle positions, but I’d bet that every team in the league has the same problem there.