Raiders mailbag: Why Malcolm Koonce should be first in line for a contract extension (2024)

We are three weeks away from the start of Las Vegas Raiders training camp, and everyone is feeling good, right? The players are definitely happy, as they are confident they can build off last season’s strong finish under new coach Antonio Pierce (5-4 overall, three wins in the final four games).

The defense added tackle Christian Wilkins, while the offense drafted a couple of starters in tight end Brock Bowers and guard Jackson Powers-Johnson. Some people were surprised the Raiders selected Bowers, considering they drafted Michael Mayer in the second round a year ago. But Mayer was not bothered in the slightest. He is still riding the high from the coaching change of Josh McDaniels to Pierce and was all smiles — as well as one of the standout performers in the team’s offseason program and minicamp.

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“It’s just different this year,” Mayer said. “I’m way happier, I’m way more positive. I love to be out here on this field. I love to play football, man. … Last year maybe there were some days I didn’t want to come in or something was going on, like I flipped the script. It’s time to dig down and play some ball, win some ball games and do what I need to do for this team.”

How the team plans to use Bowers and Mayer has been a popular question, and so has the possibility of the Raiders throwing out some contract extensions. We hit on many other hot topics as we empty the readers’ mailbag and try to temper some of this enthusiasm. Kidding …

The Raiders have quite a few promising defenders that need to be extended. Malcolm Koonce, Nate Hobbs, Robert Spillane, Divine Deablo, Marcus Epps and Tre’von Moehrig. Who do you feel the team is prioritizing trying to extend before free agency? — Brandon S.

Some of you wondered what’s taking general manager Tom Telesco so long, given the Raiders are flush with all the Jimmy Garoppolo money and are roughly $34 million under the salary cap. Well, that one is easy. He just walked into the building five-plus months ago. You really want him to start handing out long-term deals?

Like the last regime did with Derek Carr, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow?

Telesco knows what those players can do, having seen them twice a year when he was with the Los Angeles Chargers, but he wants to see them in training camp as he continues to get input from the staff and builds a vision of what this team will look like in years to come.

Koonce seems to be the obvious first player in line, as pass rusher is a premium position and the staff seems pretty convinced he is only scratching the surface. Spillane might be second, given his improvement and how much he loves Pierce (his old linebackers coach) and Maxx Crosby — and I don’t think he is going to need the Raiders to break the bank. Hobbs, Epps and Moehrig are a little trickier, as while they are nice complementary pieces in the secondary, it really depends on how much money they are looking for. They are not elite players, though Hobbs does show flashes of being one in the slot. They may need to prove it again. Same with Deablo.

How’s the quarterback battle going? — Justin B.

It’s so good, who needs Jayden Daniels or Michael Penix Jr.?

Actually … neither Aidan O’Connell nor Gardner Minshew II looked very sharp at last month’s minicamp. On one hand, the Raiders are installing a new offense so growing pains are expected. On the other hand, there is no hard contact and the defense is not going full speed, so it shouldn’t be hard to hit an open receiver.

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O’Connell had some momentum going during the team’s spring workouts, and maybe he can pick that up again when training camp starts. He can make all the throws and has a little swagger to him this year. I don’t think the Raiders would’ve given Minshew $15 million guaranteed in March if they knew O’Connell was going to get in better shape and have a real air of confidence this spring. But they did, so we’re going to battle.

Raiders mailbag: Why Malcolm Koonce should be first in line for a contract extension (3)

Aidan O’Connell showed off some swagger in his second offseason program with the Raiders. (Trevor Ruszkowski / USA Today)

And it may come down to a few exhibition games series, when both quarterbacks are under pressure and we see who gets the ball out better to Davante Adams and Bowers. Extending plays is the one thing Minshew does well … O’Connell not so much.

GO DEEPERDavante Adams urges patience with Raiders offense: 'We'll see' how good unit can be

If we gave Telesco truth serum, what would he tell us about his real expectations for this season? — J.r.F.

They won eight games last season, so I think he would want to see at least nine. Can this team get to the playoffs? Maybe. But I don’t know if he is sold on what he has at quarterback, offensive line, running back and the secondary to say that he would be shocked if they didn’t make it to the postseason. The hope is that Crosby and Adams, two of the very best players in the league, put this team on their shoulders, and then Adams wants to stick around more than he wants to set the market with his next contract.

Luke Getsy was seen as a pretty bad offensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears. Do you think he can improve? Is there any optimism that he can scheme up a decent offense with AOC/Minshew as QB? —Erik B.

The Raiders hired him after No. 1 target Kliff Kingsbury got away — he was uncomfortable with the staff and his contract — and No. 2 target Chip Kelly wanted too much. But Getsy has always been pretty well thought of throughout the NFL. Many feel the problems in Chicago were due to quarterback Justin Fields and the Raiders obviously agreed. Getsy was the passing game coordinator for the Green Bay Packers with Aaron Rodgers and Adams, so he clearly got Adams’ endorsem*nt. Pierce praised his work with the Bears running game last season, and Getsy said he is excited about using the Raiders’ two tight ends in creative ways. So, yeah, there is some optimism.

GO DEEPERWhat film shows the Raiders can expect from new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy

Thoughts on recent rankings having the Raiders below the Chargers and Denver Broncos? The Broncos didn’t really make any inspiring moves in the offseason aside from drafting a QB way too high, and the Chargers seem to be riding almost entirely on Jim Harbaugh hype while ignoring the state of their wide receiver room. — Christian D.

Yeah, the bookmakers set the over-under win total at 6.5 games for the Raiders, and I agree that is entirely too low and that they should be ranked higher than the Broncos. The Chargers, though, have Justin Herbert at QB while Harbaugh is a proven commodity, so there very well could be a battle for second place in the AFC West.

GO DEEPERNFL 2024 over/under win totals: Giants bounce back, Harbaugh's Chargers need more time

What are realistic expectations for Tyree Wilson? Is there any reason to believe he can be an impact player? — Jesse F.

The great thing, I guess, is there are no expectations. He is the third edge rusher on a team where Crosby and Koonce will get most of the snaps. Wilson has put on a lot of muscle this offseason — he looked like he was working security at Crosby’s Sack Summit last weekend (below, in the bucket hat) — so maybe he will continue to get a little work inside on passing downs. Crosby is pushing Wilson hard, and I think defensive line coach Rob Leonard does a great job, so there is a chance Wilson, who didn’t have a training camp as a rookie due to injury, can make an impact. But there is no pressure. It’s all gravy.

#Raiders DE Maxx Crosby, Saints DE Cam Jordan and Bills DE Von Miller are hosting this year's "Sack Summit" camp for defensive linemen at UNLV. Crosby, Tyree Wilson and other Raiders are some of the players participating. pic.twitter.com/hlTnc21RrA

— Tashan Reed (@tashanreed) June 29, 2024

Were the Raiders able to get out of some or all of Chandler Jones contract for conduct detrimental to the team? Or did they end up eating all of that dead money? — Michael B.

They had restructured his deal and gave him most of his money up front, so no. Here’s to hoping that Chandler is doing better.

I haven’t heard anything concrete on the extent of the shoulder surgery Kolton Miller received earlier in the offseason. All we have heard is he continuously has been working with trainers “off to the side” throughout OTAs and minicamp. Are there contingencies to replace him as a last resort? — Howard B.

Miller just had a camp for kids in Roseville, Calif., last weekend, and all indications are that he is making good progress in his rehab. Andrus Peat was at left tackle during minicamp in Miller’s place, but I don’t sense any concern that Miller won’t be ready for next season.

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Last year after Pierce took over, the defense took a tremendous jump in improvement. Do you think McDaniels was also holding back the defense or not letting Graham coach to his full potential and the way he wanted to do things? — Loren B.

Pierce has said he told Graham to let it rip when he took over, so I guess Graham was a little less aggressive under McDaniels. But it’s also true the Raiders didn’t have cornerback Jack Jones until November, and that Hobbs missed four games while McDaniels was still the coach. So there’s a couple of good reasons why Graham wasn’t as aggressie.

Thayer Munford Jr. was meh at right tackle last season but looked really good at left tackle. Miller was a right tackle in college. Just saying … — Jeff B.

You think you’re doing something, but Miller is being paid mucho moola as a left tackle. And college was seven years ago. And while Munford couldn’t beat out Jermaine Eluemunor on the right side, Eluemunor was pretty solid last season. Maybe he even helped Munford to get better this year. We’ll see.

Raiders mailbag: Why Malcolm Koonce should be first in line for a contract extension (7)

The Raiders seem comfortable having penciled in Thayer Munford Jr. at right tackle. (Stephen R. Sylvanie / USA Today)

I know what’s been said publicly, but the Raiders can’t possibly be thinking about leaving the cornerback room as is, right? Maybe they’re posturing to bring someone’s price down? — Steven H.

Steven Nelson was on the Raiders’ radar but he decided to retire. I expect they will bring in a cornerback at the start of training camp, or shortly thereafter.

What is the expectations of this year’s draft class? Who starts, makes the roster, practice squad or is cut? — Ian D.

Bowers starts, Powers-Johnson starts at left guard and guard DJ Glaze, cornerback Decamerion Richardson and linebacker Tommy Eichenberg make the roster. It wouldn’t shock me if the Raiders added a running back, which might push Dylan Laube to the practice squad, along with safety Trey Taylor and cornerback M.J. Devonshire.

Are the Raiders expected to run more wide zone blocking techniques with their new offfensive line coach? If so, do you think they might try to utilize Bowers in a similar role as the San Francisco 49ers use Deebo Samuel Sr.? Does Zamir White’s running style mesh with the blocking scheme? — Tim O.

Yes, yes, yes and so does Alexander Mattison’s.

Dak 2025? — Rob J.

Why not? If the Raiders are a winning team this year that was held back by their quarterback, breaking the bank for Dak Prescott, a very good 31-year-old quarterback, may be the only real ticket available. Because it would be unlikely again that the Raiders would be able to trade up in the draft.

I know most of the attention goes to the QB battle, but because the offense will be run first, I’m very curious about your feelings on that group, can Zamir really step up? — Ernesto F.

He did last season, and he is in great shape. But White will have to prove it to the staff again and to Telesco. They brought in Mattison because of his fit to the new offense, and could add another running back if either gets off to a slow start in camp.

GO DEEPERRaiders hoping Zamir White, Brock Bowers, Tre Tucker can step up and take pressure off QBs

Do you think the Raiders will scheme out of a lot of two TE sets this year with Bowers and Mayer similar to how New England used Ron Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez? Curious if they’ve just given up on Mayer or if there’s some grand plan they have for using both of these guys? — Avery Dorfman

That’s the plan, along with lining up Bowers out wide and behind the quarterback. They like Mayer. They just thought they couldn’t pass up on Bowers’ explosiveness, and even turned down a team trying to trade up for him.

How did you learn to do your job so extremely well? What tips do you give young reporters? (Those are serious questions; I have long been extremely impressed by the work you do — your writing style and reporting are outstanding.) — James H.

My tips are to write as often as you can, find your voice and style, try and turn interviews into conversations and make sure you write about a game for the people who did and didn’t watch it. And thanks.

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I’m going out on a limb and predicting 6-4 over the first 10 games. What are your thoughts? — Gary N.

The first six weeks are the easier part of their schedule, so they are going to have to be 4-2 at least if they have serious playoff aspirations. Three of the next four are on the road (Los Angeles Rams, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins) with the home game against the Kansas City Chiefs, so I think Raiders fans would be happy with 6-4, though 5-5 might be more likely.

Who’s your Mack Hollins pick out of training camp this year? — Brendan W.

All the passes are accounted for this year, but I think Tre Tucker makes a jump. And undrafted free agent receiver Lideatrick Griffin makes a lot of noise at camp and in the preseason.

GO DEEPERWhich of the Raiders' undrafted free agents have the best chance to make the roster?

Now that the A’s are vacating, what’s the chance the Raiders move back to Oakland, fix up the stadium and have home games where their fans are in the majority again? — Sean R.

I have bad news for you, Sean. Mark Davis is printing money with his new stadium — thanks to the sweetheart deal he got from Las Vegas. And he is the proud, respected king of the WNBA and … he is convinced that Raiders fans won’t sell their tickets when the team starts winning.

(Top photo of Malcolm Koonce: Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

Raiders mailbag: Why Malcolm Koonce should be first in line for a contract extension (2024)
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