The Las Vegas Raiders joined the AFC West battle of riches with a blockbuster trade that will reunite former Fresno State teammates Derek Carr and Davante Adams. Though we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves with playoff predictions after ESPN's Adam Schefter broke the news, the Silver and Black have a duo that can lead the team to a Super Bowl.
Some football purists will continue to say, "defense wins championships," but teams don't need the Steel Curtain to reach the title game. In the modern league, a squad with a potent offense can get the job done—just look at the two clubs in Super Bowl 56.
The Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals finished the regular season with top-eight scoring offenses and scoring defenses that ranked 15th and 17th, respectively.
Offensively, Adams will draw a ton of attention and double-teams, which will open up space for Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller, who had back-to-back 1,145-plus-yard seasons between 2019 and 2020, and Hunter Renfrow, an ascending receiver coming off a strong campaign with 103 receptions for 1,038 yards and nine touchdowns.
With Carr's accurate arm (65 percent career completion rate) and his perimeter weapons, running backs Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake will see lighter boxes on the ground. If Vegas doesn't do enough to fix the offensive line, head coach Josh McDaniels can use the short passing game to offset some of the pass-blocking issues.Video Play ButtonVideos you might like
Speaking of the Raiders offensive line, the unit needs a makeover after Alex Leatherwood showed little signs of promise at right tackle and right guard. Vegas should also find an upgrade for left guard John Simpson, who allowed three sacks and committed 10 penalties in 2021, per Pro Football Focus.
Nevertheless, the Raiders offensive line isn't the Achilles' heel that will sink their chance at a Super Bowl appearance.
At 10-7, Vegas clinched a playoff spot with an offensive line that featured four new starters for the 2021 season. For comparison, the Bengals, with their poor offensive line, contributed to quarterback Joe Burrow taking 70 sacks (third-most in NFL history) between the regular season and the playoffs. Yet, he still helped lead his team to the Super Bowl.Emilee Chinn/Associated Press
The new Carr-Adams connection doesn't erase all ills, but it allows the Raiders to compete with the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos—who acquired quarterback Russell Wilson via trade—in scoring shootouts while making it tougher for pass defenses.
With arguably the league's best receiver in the fold, expect the Raiders to target offensive linemen who can slow down pass-rushers within the division such as Khalil Mack, Joey Bosa, Chris Jones, Frank Clark, Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory, giving Carr, who has a quick release, just enough time to get the ball out to his top playmaker.
On the open market, Vegas can take a look at La'el Collins, Daryl Williams and Billy Turner as potential options to fill a void at right tackle. Also, a playoff-caliber squad with the added draw of a high-level quarterback-receiver tandem can garner interest from quality veterans who would take modest deals to play for a team with some buzz.Raiders head coach Josh McDanielsMichael Conroy/Associated Press
Keep in mind, a couple of weeks ago, McDaniels said team brass hadn't started negotiations with Carr's camp about an extension, which may cost the club $40 million per year beyond 2022, per Las Vegas Review-Journal's Vincent Bonsignore. The front office may want to fill holes before it hammers out a massive deal for the 30-year-old quarterback. With linebacker Cory Littleton and Carl Nassib earmarked as post-June 1 cuts, Vegas will have an additional $20 million to invest in Carr's new deal late in the spring.
Though the Raiders will need to spend responsibly with Adams on a new five-year, $141.3 million contract, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, general manager Dave Ziegler doesn't face an impossible task as we've seen with the Rams, who have routinely manipulated the salary cap to acquire big-time players.
Coming off of a successful title run, the Rams signed wideout Allen Robinson II to a three-year, $46.5 million contract (h/t NFL Network's Tom Pelissero) on the day after losing edge-rusher Von Miller to the Buffalo Bills in free agency, which shows the importance of fielding a high-level offense in the modern game. By the way, Los Angeles had about $2 million in cap space.
In analyzing the roster makeup and spending strategy of the Rams and Bengals, we shouldn't point to a shaky offensive line or limited cap flexibility as reasons to exclude the Raiders from the Super Bowl discussion next season.
Defensively, Vegas must add a couple of defensive linemen in addition to Bilal Nichols, but they have a strong pass rush that can apply consistent quarterback pressure and close games.Raiders edge-rusher Chandler JonesDarryl Webb/Associated Press
Before the trade for Adams, the Raiders signed Chandler Jones, who's recorded double-digit sacks in six of the last seven seasons. He'll pair up with Pro Bowl pass-rusher and 2021 second-team All-Pro Maxx Crosby to form a dynamic edge-rushing duo.
If Jones and Crosby get to the quarterback, the Raiders defensive backs won't have to cover receivers for extended periods. Trayvon Mullen, Anthony Averett, Rock Ya-Sin and Nate Hobbs won't strike anyone as top-notch cornerbacks, but they're all capable of feeding off a defense that's built around a viable pass rush.
Even with the question marks across the offensive line and the transition from former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to Patrick Graham, the Raiders have hit big in two key areas that mirror exactly what we just saw in the last two Super Bowl contenders.
Along with the pass-rushers to clamp down on opposing offenses, think about the Carr-Adams connection in the same light as Matthew Stafford throwing to 2021 Offensive Player of the Year Cooper Kupp or Joe Burrow re-establishing a bond with his former LSU teammate in 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year Ja'Marr Chase.Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Before the Raiders sent shockwaves across the league with the move for Adams, they already had a high-level quarterback in Carr who's hovering in the top-10-12 range at his position. Now, with an elite receiver, he'll likely have a spike in efficiency and production.
At 29 years old, in his prime, Adams has racked up 1,374 receiving yards or more in three of the last four seasons and led the league in touchdown receptions (18) for the 2020 season. Without him, the Raiders finished with the sixth-ranked passing attack despite a subpar offensive line and losing Waller late in the season. The team also waived Henry Ruggs III, its best deep threat, midway through the season after he was charged with four felonies for a car crash that resulted in the death of 23-year-old Tina Tintor.
Now, the Raiders add a star receiver who has a ready-made rapport with Carr and the ability to soundly beat defenders off the line of scrimmage with savvy releases and a catch rate above 72 percent over the last two seasons.
We often think of the quarterback as the primary player to elevate his teammates, and that still holds true for the Raiders. Michael Crabtree, Jared Cook and Waller have had some of their best seasons playing with Carr. Renfrow made a huge leap between his second and third campaigns.
So we should expect a stellar joint performance when Carr reconnects with Adams, who's an elite talent in his own right, which spells trouble for not only the AFC West but the rest of the league.
Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.