The Las Vegas Raiders traded away three starting offensive linemen, including two long-time staples, which sent up a chorus of critiques wondering why coach Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock would gut one of their best assets.
First, the Raiders traded right tackle Trent Brown, who struggled to stay healthy, to New England. Then word came a separate times that Vegas planned to cut guard Gabe Jackson and center Rodney Hudson, one of the best at his positions. Ultimately, the Raiders were able to trade Jackson to Seattle and Hudson to Arizona, recouping some assets.
Moving on from 60 percent of a starting offensive line -- one of the best in the game not too long ago -- brought criticisms about the Raiders' process.
General manager Mike Mayock, however, defended the moves and said he's excited about the young potential set to be unlocked with opportunity.
"You know, it's funny because the public perception is 'Aw, the Raiders, they made a bunch of moves on the offensive line, therefore they're gonna be worse there'. I'm kind of energized by it, to be really honest with you," Mayock said, via Raiders Wire. "We redid our left tackle's contract, Kolton Miller, and that showed our locker room that we were willing to be really aggressive in signing one of our own, and somebody we believe is a cornerstone.
"And then people are like 'yeah, but you traded away one of the best centers in football' and we did, but you can't make that move unless you think you've got somebody right behind him that can come in and compete. So, we look at an Andre James and a Nick Martin and say, look, we feel like we can compete at center.
"We're getting younger. I'm excited and energized by what our offensive line group is starting to look like. And I'm excited and energized because I think that [offensive line coach] Tom Cable feels the same way. We have all the respect in the world for Rodney [Hudson] and Gabe [Jackson] and Trent [Brown], but at this point we made a conscious decision to try to get younger, maybe a little bit more athletic, and let's go. I can't wait to see how we react."
The Raiders handed Miller a big new contract. Miller has grown into the game and is one of the better left tackles in the league. Vegas also re-signed Richie Incognito this offseason to ensure a veteran interior presence. Mayock also gave James an extension despite having just one start in his career.
Miller, Incognito, 30-year-old guard Denzelle Good and James appear set to start, with the right tackle being the big question mark. Mayock mentioned former practice squad player Jaryd Jones-Smith as an option to start at RT.
While the outside world fretted over the Raiders' offensive line overhaul, Mayock is pleased with where they stand ahead of next week's drafts. Time will tell if that confidence is warranted.