The Oakland Raiders' offseason has come under criticism in some circles. Jon Gruden has been open about wanting to bring football back to 1998, and a lot of the team's moves throughout the offseason have fit that mold.
Day 1, hour 1 of the 2018 NFL combine. This quote: pic.twitter.com/HVF1WJlkEn— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) February 28, 2018
The Raiders signed two blocking tight ends and a fullback this offseason. They spent to bring in a 32-year old receiver who fell off last season (Jordy Nelson), a 32-year old tackle (Breno Giacomini), a 29-year old running back who has been good for two of his six NFL seasons (Doug Martin) to be paired with their 32-year old running back who is the foundation of their running game (Marshawn Lynch), a 33-year old corner (Leon Hall) and a 31-year old corner (Shareece Wright).
They cut one of the NFL's best punters (Marquette King), reportedly for character reasons, but they also signed cornerback Daryl Worley shortly after he was arrested and released by the Eagles and traded for Martavis Bryant, who has been suspended multiple times and sulked his way out of Pittsburgh.
After bringing in a draft haul that was roundly criticized, the Raiders have made another curious move in free agency. According to several reports, they've agreed to sign longtime Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson.
The Raiders have agreed to terms with former Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson @nflnetwork @AroundTheNFL— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) May 4, 2018
It's entirely possible that this deal doesn't cost the Raiders much at all, but the philosophy behind turning to a 35-year old linebacker with an Achilles tear in his recent past (who his former team decided to let walk this offseason in an effort to get younger and faster on defense) in order to upgrade the linebacking corps is a bit odd. At his peak, Johnson was one of football's best linebackers, but his play has taken a step backward over the last two seasons. That's not a surprise, or really even a criticism; players getting into their mid-to-late 30s tend to slow down, and it becomes more difficult for them to make plays in a league that gets quicker and faster every year.
Gruden seems intent on building a throwback football team, however, and having bigger, more experienced linebackers looks to be a part of that. The team's other linebacker signing this offseason, Tahir Whitehead, also fits that mold, but he is at least still in the prime of his career and able to consistently make plays against both the run and the pass. Only time will tell how well this throwback strategy works for Oakland -- teams have zigged where others zagged and found success before, after all. But it's hard to be optimistic when a team flies in the face of so much about where the league seems to be going.