When Lynch came out of retirement to play in the Black Hole last season, it was anyone's guess whether he would see the second year of his two-year contract.
Speaking with the Bay Area News Group on Wednesday, Gruden confirmed plans for Lynch to lead his 2018 backfield.
"I have talked to Marshawn briefly. We'll see. We'll keep everybody posted," Gruden said. "Right now, he's our leading ballcarrier. He's our back, and we're counting on him. Hopefully we get an opportunity to work together. That's a man that has a lot of respect in this league as a player and I certainly have respect for him also."
Asked directly, however, if the 31-year-old power back will be on the roster this season, Gruden conceded, "I don't know."
Although Lynch disappeared from the Raiders' offense for long stretches, he closed out the season in strong fashion, reaching the 10,000-yard mark for his career. Even better, he finished just 10 yards shy of leading the league in rushing over the final five weeks, averaging 5.2 yards per carry from Week 13 through Week 17.
Can Crabtree count on a similar fate at wide receiver?
The arrival of Gruden might just save Crabtree, who is owed a $7 million salary in 2018.
"I got to bump into Crabtree," Gruden explained. "Hopefully we can get the best out of Crabtree and his career. There's some people in place, but we've got a number of issues that are concerning right now and we're focusing on them."
Before he moved from the sidelines to the broadcast booth a decade ago, Gruden had developed a reputation for embellishment in personnel matters. His public optimism aside, it remains to be seen if all parties are on the same page regarding the futures of Lynch and Crabtree.