Las Vegas Raiders bolster their defense but offense still lags in AFC West

The Las Vegas Raiders are putting some nice pieces into place on defense, but the offense is still woefully behind the Chiefs.

As the NFL’s frenetic free agency period continues to unfold, the Las Vegas Raiders have made a couple of notable moves.

One occurred earlier today as the Raiders inked former L.A. Rams linebacker Cory Littleton, to a three-year, $36 million dollar deal. At the ripe age of 26, Littleton offers Las Vegas a much-needed performer in the heart of their defense. He’s a field general, an excellent tackler, and has strong coverage skills. At first glance, the Littleton signing may even be the best of the Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock era. They snagged a young, elite linebacker for a manageable price.

In addition to Littleton, the Raiders also added another linebacker. Nick Kwiatkoski, a player who I suggested the Chiefs should pursue, was signed on Monday. In Kwiatkowski, the Raiders gain another young piece with a ton of upside. He’s another linebacker with solid coverage skills, and he performed well when filling in for Roquan Smith for the Chicago Bears this past season.

In addition to the defensive boost, the Raiders have also added quarterback Marcus Mariota, the former Titan who traumatized Chiefs Kingdom by catching his own touchdown pass in the 2018 Wild Card round of the playoffs.

The Mariota signing provides the Raiders with two things. First, Mariota, who has had a largely disappointing carer this far, gets a chance to learn from Jon Gruden, a quarterback specialist who may find a way to maximize what Mariota has in the tank. Second, Mariota’s skill set is unique. He’s far more athletic than Derek Carr, which means Gruden could dial-up more read-option plays to open up the offense a bit. A mobile quarterback adds a new dimension to any offense.

The Raiders also possess two 1st round draft picks in the upcoming draft. Expect to see them nab a wide receiver with one of those picks.

Have the Raiders improved in the last two days? Absolutely. Does the future look bright in Vegas? I’d say so. Do they pose a real threat to the Chiefs this season? Nope. Adding Littleton was big, but the disparity between Mahomes and Carr/Mariota is massive, and this disparity is the biggest sign that the Raiders are still a few steps behind K.C. It’s not clear that Mariota is an upgrade over Carr.

Even if the Raiders are able to draft Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb, they won’t have the kind of lightning in a bottle capacity of the Chiefs offense. In order for the Raiders to catch up to the Chiefs, not only to they need massive upgrades at wide receiver, but they need a quarterback who can reasonably challenge Mahomes. The fact of the matter is that a Carr/Mariota quarterback unit will hold the Raiders back in their attempt to usurp the Chiefs.

Unless they have under-the-radar plans to overhaul the quarterback position, the Raiders, while improving, remain on the outside of any real hopes of upending the Super Bowl champion Chiefs.

Next: Five WR targets for the Chiefs in the draft
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