19/09/2018

Raiders mailbag: What’s the delay with NaVorro Bowman?

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Raiders mailbag: What’s the delay with NaVorro Bowman?

The status of free agent linebacker NaVorro Bowman is the most popular question among readers responding to a mailbag.

The status of free agent linebacker NaVorro Bowman is the most popular question among readers responding to a mailbag.

ALAMEDA — What’s up with NaVorro Bowman?

After playing 10 games with the Raiders last season, Bowman remains an unrestricted free agent. Whatever interest there has been in his services has been under the radar. Bowman said at the end of the season he was open to returning, and the Raiders are on record as wanting him back.

So how come he’s not signed? When soliciting questions for a Raiders mailbag, Bowman’s status was by far the most popular question.

So we’ll start there and then move on to other business.

Bowman is finding that what he considers to top dollar for his services as opposed to what NFL teams think can vary greatly for a veteran player.

He made somewhere in the vicinity of $9 million combined from the 49ers and Raiders last season and won’t approach that figure this year.

Using Charles Woodson as a guide, figure Bowman good for half that, maybe with the chance to make up more with incentives.

Bowman sees himself as an every down player and believes he proved himself last year. There’s no guarantee the new staff sees Bowman in that light, and in fact, the linebacker at the moment who looks poised to play the most is Tahir Whitehead, signed from the Detroit Lions.

When it comes to veteran players, general manager Reggie McKenzie will hold the line in terms of negotiations. He could have given Donald Penn a more fair contract a year ago but waited until he missed all of training camp. Woodson was kept waiting in each of his last three years before coming back.

There’s also the matter of the Raiders potentially taking an inside linebacker at No. 10, with many mocks connecting them with Georgia’s Roquan Smith.

McKenzie has a figure in mind, and he’s not going to stray much from it. Bowman is waiting to see if someone still sees him as an every down player and will pay him that way.

If that offer materializes, Bowman will walk. If it doesn’t, McKenzie will wait until Bowman says yes.

In Year 1 especially, coach Jon Gruden will let be known who he wants and why he wants them, but he’s got enough on his plate to get into the contract nitty-gritty. He’ll let McKenzie and contract negotiator Dan Ventrelle handle the details.

On to other questions . . .

Q: I’m still concerned with the corners, any word from someone on the inside talking about Gareon Conley and do they know if he’s ready to be a lock down starting CB? Or are they just praying he’s ready? — Julian

Rest assured Gruden has talked with Ohio State Urban Meyer about how to get the best out of Conley. But the lack of contact as mandated by the CBA does involve a certain amount of prayer in the off-season. The Raiders are expecting Conley to be a starter and a good one immediately. In Gruden’s first-year with the Raiders, a big part of the 4-12 to 8-8 jump was the trade for Eric Allen and the drafting of Charles Woodson. No one is saying Conley and Rashaan Melvin can be that good, but certainly they could be a huge upgrade over the David Amerson-Sean Smith combo.

Q: Is Gruden OK with (Johnny) Holton and (Seth) Roberts or are we going to use an early pick for WR depth? — Rich

Wide receivers will be counted upon to think on their feet, process information quickly and make route adjustments on the spot. Holton remains extremely raw in that regard. Roberts is an interesting case because he’s a McKenzie guy who signed a contract extension. He’ll need to be much better in terms of holding on to the ball. Jordy Nelson’s presence as a veteran who can find open areas could reduce his role.

Q: Based on last year’s performance do you see Nicholas Morrow as a viable sub-package LBer?  I think I read that Gruden may have mentioned he liked his game or skills at this point. — Clint G.

Interested to see if Morrow comes back looking like a safety or a linebacker. He played at about 216 last year and needs some muscle without losing his athletic ability. He showed enough last year to get a chance this year with a new staff. He’ll have to prove himself all over again. Which isn’t a bad thing.

Q: What’s the plan for improving the defense? Will any of the current players change positions as part of the plan? — @BlackAdam32

The plan, according to Gruden, is to be a “4-3, one-gap team, much like the Cincinnati Bengals were.” Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will attempt to devise ways to get Khalil Mack in one-on-one blocking situations. One change will be to get outside linebacker Bruce Irvin in an edge role rather than play as a traditional strong side linebacker. Roles won’t be sorted out until the Raiders actually hit the field.

Q: What is going on with Khalil Mack’s contract offer? Is there an offer, extension, or tag option in play? — Vito Rodriguez

When the Raiders signed Derek Carr to a five-year, $125 million contract, it didn’t happen until late June heading into the last year of his contract. I would expect it to be something similar with Mack. As for now, Mack is in the books for $13.846 million after the Raiders exercised a fifth-year option. If Mack went through the entire season under that number, the Raiders would still have a chance to sign him before free agency in 2019. But then the price would go up even higher — and Mack and Aaron Donald of the Rams are probably the two biggest potential earners in the NFL on defense.

Q: There’s been a lot of rumors about Reggie being defanged. I’m sure he had more veto power over, say, Dennis Allen’s decisions but his relationship with Gruden doesn’t seem so out of the ordinary for a GM. What are your thoughts? — Abdullah Hamid

Funny, I never noticed McKenzie’s incisors getting any bigger. In presiding over three coaches, McKenzie went from the final say (Dennis Allen) to occasional debate (Jack Del Rio) to serving at the pleasure of the head coach (Gruden). I’ve said all along Gruden would rely on McKenzie a great deal, especially in the first year. So far, it’s without question a better relationship than Gruden had when he went to Tampa with Rich McKay. And as much as Gruden liked Bruce Allen, McKenzie has far more expertise on the personnel side of things. After their first year together, they’ll both assess whether it works or not.

Q: True or false: National sports media has the knives out for Gruden? — Ryan Boyle

Depends what you’re reading. No doubt Gruden’s “Back to 1998” quip and tongue-in-cheek rebukes of analytics has made for plenty of over-reaction. His less than glowing review of Colin Kaepernick did as well But he’s huge public figure — a human starting gun for sports talk.Things he said will be exaggerated and taken out of context, which in a sense is the entire purpose of social media. If the Gruden Raiders struggle, he’ll get hammered. If they have success, it will be huge the other way. I’d suggest sitting back, enjoying the ride and don’t get caught up in “hot takes.”

Q: I heard something about the Raiders and Tre Boston any teeth to that? Also how much cap space do the Raiders still have? — Stephen Rupp

Gruden talked up how impressive the Los Angeles Chargers were a year ago, and Boston played almost every down and had five interceptions. Boston’s not alone — other safeties still available include Eric Reid , Ron Parker, Mike Mitchell and Kenny Vaccaro. The Raiders have already signed 29-year-old Marcus Gilchrist and paid him a starter’s wage The cap isn’t a major issue. Overthecap.com has the Raiders without about $15 million in space but without a handful of new signings. So it’s less than that, but still manageable. A long-term deal with Mack would probably drop his $13.846 million figure in favor of minimum salary and pro-rated bonus money.

Q: With all the talk about the Raiders running backs – haven’t heard anything about Elijah Hood, do you think he’ll be in the mix and do you think he’ll make the roster? — Chris from Atlanta.

With Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington on the roster, it will be a difficult road to the 53-man roster depending on who is healthy. Gruden also went out of his way to say how much he likes the running back class. Richard and Washington are termed “satellite” backs by Gruden, and one could be trade fodder come training camp as things begin to sort themselves out. Gruden also said he loves a lot of backs in the draft.

Q: Bigger need, LB or DT? — Chris G

Considering that linebackers often come off the field, and that Whitehead could fit in as an every down linebacker, I’d say it’s defensive tackle. Especially if Bowman returns. Gruden made a personal plea to Mario Edwards Jr. to step it up and Vita Vea, a 347-pound defensive tackle from Washington, could do a lot to help free Mack and Irvin from the outside and may be available at No. 10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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