The Oakland Raiders are not only building for the future, but they’re doing a great job of it. Not only are the 5-2 Raiders built for success now, and have a very good chance to make the playoffs, but they also have young pieces for the future. That’s a great thing, but only if the team makes sure to lock in those young players with some long-term contracts. While not each of the names below are first or second-year players, each of them play a big role, and could be vital for the Raiders in the future.
Derek Carr, quarterback
This one is incredibly obvious, but not mentioning it would be disrespectful to what the third-year QB has done to this point. He’s improved in each season in terms of completion percentage and is on pace to set a new career-high in yardage, quarterback rating, and a new career-low in interceptions. It’s been a thing of beauty for Carr and the Raiders, and while he’s set to become a free agent in 2018, there’s very little chance that he winds up making it there without getting a new (and huge) contract first.
Khalil Mack, defensive end
Another obvious option here, but a player who the Raiders are going to have to hand over a boatload of money too. He’s a 2018 free agent, but there’s the option aspect of it involved. It’s not going to matter, though, because the player who had 15 sacks last season is going to remain in Oakland for the long haul. While he’s lacking in the sack department this season (just three) much of that has to do with double teams from opponents, as well as teams refusing to let him get the matchup he wants.
Malcolm Smith, linebacker
Smith is 27 years old, but the former seventh-round draft pick out of USC is proving to be the real deal. After the Raiders signed him to a two-year deal worth just $7 million before the 2015 season, he’s proven that he absolutely deserves to be a big part of the team’s future. While he’s set to become a free agent in 2017, there’s a chance the Raiders may not be able to sign him due to the other big contracts they’ll have to hand out sooner than later. Even with that said, for the player coming off 122 combined tackles, six passes defensed and two forced fumbles in 2015, it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t deserve a decent-sized contract.
Latavius Murray, running back
No one is going to agree that the Raiders should re-sign the 2017 free agent. But, there’s an argument to be made both ways. While many people are going to argue that DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard are ready to take over the helm, we quickly saw in the two games Murray missed that this wasn’t the case. The Raiders have gone 4-1 with Murray in the lineup, and when he plays, Carr has thrown 10 touchdowns against just one interception. In the other two games, he’s thrown three touchdowns against two interceptions.
It’s a small sample size, but having Murray in the backfield either helps from a comfort level or simply from the fact that he’s the best runner of the bunch. He may not have an amazing yard-per-carry average this season (four), but his knack for finding the end zone (five touchdowns) is impressive and helps make Carr’s life easier. Even more importantly, with a mediocre season, Murray may not demand much on the open market, so the Raiders could re-sign him without breaking the bank.