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With Marshawn Lynch in mix, will Raiders have NFL's best offense in 2017?

Well, after weeks of speculation, it appears that Marshawn Lynch is indeed returning to the NFL to play for his hometown Oakland Raiders.

The running back will join a top-10 offense that includes a Pro Bowl quarterback (Derek Carr), two versatile young runners (DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard), a bevy of gifted pass catchers (Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Jared Cook) and one of the league's very best offensive lines.

With Lynch's experience, leadership and hard-nosed running style added to the mix, will the Raiders boast the NFL's best all-around offense in 2017? If not, who will?

There is no question the Raiders -- with Marshawn Lynch and the additions of Jared Cook and Cordarrelle Patterson -- have the top offense "on paper" as of today. The unit should improve from last year, as the core of young players led by QB Derek Carr continues to improve.

But we have to remember the season does not start now. The Patriots -- with Tom Brady and the addition of Brandin Cooks -- will challenge Oakland. The Saints, Falcons and Packers will all be good again. The draft could also have an impact on these teams.

The Raiders, though, do have to be the early "clubhouse leader" for the best offense -- IF Marshawn Lynch is what he was in Seattle. When John Riggins sat out the 1980 season with the Redskins, he was not the same when he came back in 1981 at 32 years old. (Of course, he did round back into form a couple years later.) I think the Raiders will improve with Lynch, but the best offense in football will reside in New England. The Patriots have upgraded around Tom Brady, a quarterback who's been successful in the past with a cast of misfits. Rob Gronkowski is coming back and Brandin Cooks adds a dynamic element to the passing game. And running back Rex Burkhead could allow the Pats to be far more explosive than they've been on the ground in past years.

I think Lynch can help the Raiders be a winning team and make a deep run in the postseason, but I don't think they will boast the best offense. If Marshawn returns as Beast Mode, the Raiders could be very powerful offensively. However, we don't know yet which player the Raiders will get. Even if Beast Mode is back, I don't know if Oakland's offense will be better than the Patriots' unit. Or Atlanta's. Or Pittsburgh's. I wouldn't say the Raiders are the best yet -- we'll have to wait and see. Beast Mode joining the Silver and Black certainly puts them into the discussion, but they're still a step behind the truly elite units in the league, especially those led by a couple of No. 12s. The moves the Packers and Patriots have made this offseason (acquiring Martellus Bennett and Brandin Cooks, respectively), bolstered offenses that outscored the Raiders a season ago. Each of those teams also has a deeper roster of playmakers than what Oakland will feature with Lynch in tow. We also can't forget that Lynch battled numerous injuries and didn't look like himself the last time he set foot on the gridiron, and Derek Carr is coming back from a serious injury himself.

The addition of Lynch puts the Raiders close to the top, but there are just too many question marks for me to rank them above the likes of the Packers, Patriots or even the Falcons (though the loss of Kyle Shanahan hurts that unit a bit). I don't want to make Derek mad, so ... yes, the Raiders will have the best offense in the league in 2017. As good as Latavius Murray was, Marshawn Lynch adds another element when it comes to yards after contact. He will turn 6-yard gains into 20-yard gains. There are health questions, but I think a year off has done Marshawn some good. I know he's been working out in Oakland with some of the players, so I think he feels pretty good. I'm not convinced we're going to see the same Beast Mode that turned Seattle football fans into amateur seismologists. The last time we saw Marshawn Lynch, he was posting lackluster numbers while battling a host of injuries. His fortunes should improve behind the Raiders' massive offensive line, but it's hard to think he'll be a centerpiece with Oakland boasting an emerging passing game.

If you're looking for the best all-around offense in the league, it's still down in Atlanta with a deep Falcons attack -- even without Kyle Shanahan pulling the strings. You know, the Raiders' offense was pretty good last year. And this is no conjecture: Oakland would have seriously challenged the Patriots in the AFC title game had Derek Carr been healthy. I mean, hell, the Raiders couldn't have been worse than the Steelers, who looked defeated from the opening kickoff. I'm not saying the Raiders would have beaten the GOAT, Tom Brady, but they would have been competitive -- and let's just say, weirder things have happened. (Go look at the "Tuck Rule Game," millennials. Now you'll understand if Jon Gruden isn't always so effusive in his praise of the Patriots.)

But let me bottom-line this for you. Marshawn Lynch will be fine offensively. But he's going to bring some swagger to the Raiders that they have missed for quite some time. The Raiders used to be about characters. Guys like the Tooz, Snake and a Mad Stork. Beast Mode would be the perfect Raider, both on and off the field. This is a young team coming of age -- and the Raiders need that veteran presence to push them over the top. This move would be akin to when the Cowboys added Charles Haley prior to the 1992 season. Obviously, he was a great player. But he also brought championship credibility to a young team looking to make its mark. I honestly believe this move will end up pushing the Raiders over the top.

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