Considered a dark-horse Super Bowl contender heading into the 2022 season, the Las Vegas Raiders failed to live up to expectations last year. The team got off to a 2-6 start, which was their worst start since 2018, and ultimately ended up missing the postseason. Las Vegas finished with the fourth-worst record in the AFC at 6-11, and continued their streak of failing to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, which dates all the way back to 2002.
Following a disappointing 2022 campaign, head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler have been very active to start the offseason. Of course, the biggest move the Raiders made involved them parting ways with quarterback Derek Carr after nine seasons.
That hasn't been all the Raiders have done, though. To replace Carr, Las Vegas signed Jimmy Garoppolo to a three-year, $67.5 million deal in free agency. Las Vegas also brought in wide receiver Jakobi Meyers from the New England Patriots and safety Marcus Epps who started in all 17 games for the Super Bowl runner-up Philadelphia Eagles.
Still, there are some areas that the front office needs to shore up before the start of the 2023 season. If the Raiders really want to be competitive again, they should prioritize one key area of need over the next few weeks. With that being said, here is the Las Vegas Raiders’ biggest need to address after the first week of the NFL Free Agency.
Raiders’ biggest need after the first week of NFL free agency: Running Back
Ahead of the 2022 season, the Raiders decided to not pick up the fifth-year option on Josh Jacobs' contract, making him a free agent this offseason. This was a pretty big mistake by Vegas considering that the running back would end up having the best season of his career. Jacobs' numbers on the season were incredibly good (340 CAR, 1653 YDS, 12 TD, 53 REC, 400 YDS) and they helped him earn Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro honors.
Instead of having him under contract for around $8 million next season, the Raiders had no choice but to place the franchise tag on Jacobs. The tag is worth a bit more than $10 million, but the Raiders and Jacobs still have until July 15th to agree to a long-term extension.
If they do not agree on a deal, Jacobs could sign the tag and play the 2023 season on it. On the other hand, he could refuse to sign it and sit out the entire year or try to force a trade to another team. The Raiders were the benefactor of such a situation last offseason when the Green Bay Packers franchise tagged Davante Adams, only to trade him to Las Vegas shortly after.
Considering all the potential outcomes here, the Raiders need to focus on signing Jacobs to a long-term contract. But they also cannot ignore the possibility of him leaving, and they should consider bringing in another running back or two in free agency.
There are quite a few intriguing options still available on the market, with Ezekiel Elliott and Kareem Hunt being two such guys the Raiders should look at. Elliott was recently waived by the Dallas Cowboys but proved he could still be effective in certain situations in 2022 (231 CAR, 876 YDS, 12 TD), while Hunt has revitalized his career while splitting time with Nick Chubb on the Cleveland Browns.
At the end of the day, the Raiders may have franchise tagged Jacobs, but they still need to address the running back position. The priority should obviously be to lock up Jacobs on a long-term deal and avoid any conflict with him. If that can't happen, though, Las Vegas has to think about other avenues to take as well.
Whether it is with Jacobs or another player, the Raiders certainly need to focus on bringing in a running back over the next few weeks of free agency. As a result, it will be interesting to see what activity they partake in at the position as the offseason moves forward.