Raiders’ chances of post-season play depend on offseason

Raiders biggest offseason need? Re-sign Zach Miller. (Photo by Kelly Thomas)

Should Jason Campbell start the 2011 season as the Raiders’ starting quarterback, he’ll face Sports Betting odds that are long when it comes to having success — and for good reason.

While the Raiders made great strides in 2010, going 8-8 for their first .500-or-better season in eight years, the collective bargaining fiasco between the league and its players could end up causing problems for the team this year.

Al Davis was smart to get many key re-signings done prior to the current hold on free agency, but with Nnamdi Asomugha and Robert Gallery on their way out, getting Zach Miller to come back will be huge.

Miller is a critical free agent for the Raiders.

Asomugha, while still great, is 30 this year and that means he’s on the downside for an NFL cornerback. How long the Raiders great will be able to keep up with younger and faster receivers isn’t known, but Davis isn’t going to make the same mistake he made with Terry McDaniel.

From 1992-1996, there wasn’t a better corner in the league. McDaniel was selected to five Pro Bowls during that span, and holds the Raiders’ record for interceptions returned for touchdown (5), and is second all time in interceptions (34) and yards returned by interception (624).

In 1996, McDaniel started 15 of 16 games, had five picks (one for touchdown), for 150 yards, and went to his fifth Pro Bowl. During the offseason, the then 32-year old corner was made the Raiders’ ‘transition free agent,’ and ended up signing a four-year, $13.6M deal — a great contract for 1997.

McDaniel’s 1997 season was his worst as a Raider. The aging corner couldn’t cover a bed with a blanket, starting just 12 of the 13 games he played, and getting one pick for 17 yards. He was let go at the end of the season and played in just nine games, starting none, in 1998 for the 8-8 Seattle Seahawks. His career ended when the season was over.

Robert Gallery, who will turn 31 before this season, has struggled to stay healthy over the last two seasons. Gallery wants mid-level left tackle play ($8M per year), and that’s just too much for a left guard with injury issues. In 2010, the Raiders may have found a player to replace him for backup guard pay — Daniel Loper.

Loper signed a two-year $4.2M contract before the deadline, and will likely be the Raiders’ starting left guard at the start of the season…unless he supplants Cooper Carlisle at right guard. Loper filled in for Gallery in 2010 while the former first rounder was injured, and performed well in his place.

Either way, the Raiders will be covered on the offensive line. Along with Loper, they also have Bruce Campbell, last year’s fourth-round selection in the draft, and the popular thinking is that they’ll be looking for another offensive guard with their first selection of this year’s draft, pick No. 48 in the second round.

Back to Miller. Brandon Myers may turn out to be a capable starter, but he’s not ready to be as productive as Miller — the Raiders’ leading receiver over the last three seasons.

Why? Myers can’t get open when he’s a receiver. Myers started three games in 2010 and four receptions for 20 yards. For the season, Myers had 12 receptions for 80 yards and one fumble. In contrast, Miller had a team-leading 60 receptions in 15 games for an average of four receptions a game.

Over his four-year career, Miller has caught 44, 56,66, and60 passes in each respective season. That’s 226 receptions in 62 games as a pro for 2,712 yards, and 12 touchdowns. His rookie season was the only year he hasn’t led the Raiders in receiving — he tied Jerry Porter with 44 and trailed Ronald Curry, who had 57 that season.

In short, the Raiders biggest need this offseason is Miller. Just ask his quarterback.

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