The Raiders’ offseason is generating plenty of compliments league wide, but coach Jack Del Rio isn’t ready to declare they’ve made any statements yet.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Del Rio said to reporters Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. “We just got started. I don’t feel like (we’re) sending any signal or doing anything other than recognizing needs and desires to acquire good players, recognizing the need on our roster to fortify ourselves, make ourselves stronger. That remains the approach.”
In the opening days of free agency, the Raiders signed offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele, outside linebacker Bruce Irvin and cornerback Sean Smith.
Osemele beefs up an offensive line that also re-signed left tackle Donald Penn, allowing Osemele to play his stronger position of left guard. Osemele would’ve played left tackle if Penn didn’t return.
Irvin provides a bookend pass rusher to team up with All-Pro Khalil Mack and Smith added an accomplished veteran presence to the secondary, the team’s biggest area of weakness.
“They fit great,” Del Rio said of the trio. “The three guys that we acquired are big, strong, aggressive athletes with attitude. They’re good players, they fit needs and we have more, we need more. It’s a beginning of a nice offseason. It’s just the beginning. We have work to do yet.”
Most of that remaining work will likely come from the draft, where the Raiders’ biggest needs are at safety and backup running back. But the moves in free agency give Oakland the important leeway that should allow them to take the best available talent in the draft, rather than be tied to specific needs.
The Raiders feel like they can and should compete for a playoff spot next season and sound ready for those expectations.
“We have a goal, we’re on a mission,” Del Rio said. “This is just the natural progression of where it needs to go. We laid out goals and things last year, became a competitive team, became a team that established a healthy culture of how we go about our business. Expectations have been raised and now we’re just busy at work.”