Load the confetti cannons. Cue the marching band. Finally, the Raiders are poised to make some noise.
It has been an eerily quiet offseason in Alameda. A year after Al Davis dominated the March/April news cycle by trading for cornerback DeAngelo Hall and signing free agents like wide receiver Javon Walker and safety Gibril Wilson, the NFL?s last maverick owner has rolled out the red carpet for practically no one of marquee value ? unless you believe that Khalif Barnes is the next Lincoln Kennedy.
To be fair, it was all by design. Chastened by the disastrous results of last year?s spending spree, the Raiders took care of their own in 2009, signing cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, punter Shane Lechler and guard Cooper Carlisle, among others, to new contracts.
?You needed to get the core re-signed. Like a Lechler, like an Asomugha, like a (cornerback) Chris Johnson and a Cooper Carlisle,? said Tom Cable, who will be orchestrating ? or at least accompanying ? his first NFL draft as a head coach. ?Those guys to me were really important. (Tight end) Tony Stewart ? maybe he doesn?t have a huge role, but he?s got a big role in that locker room and on this football team. ... That far outweighs signing some name or some big salary, because that didn?t do a damn thing for us.?
But now comes the fun part. The Raiders? sixth consecutive losing season resulted in another high draft choice, this time No. 7 overall. Cable said the team has identified four main positions of need. He wouldn?t divulge what they were, but wide receiver, offensive tackle, defensive tackle and safety would be good bets.
The talent pool among those positions could yield an immediate starter at No. 7 ? an offensive lineman such as Virginia?s Eugene Monroe or Alabama?s Andre Smith, a wide receiver like Texas Tech?s Michael Crabtree or Missouri?s Jeremy Maclin, or maybe Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji.
?There?s a lot of choices. Really good choices,? Cable said. ?We can go a lot of different ways. I think that?s a good thing, in that we?ve got about three or four real needs that we need to address.?
Cable agrees with the experts who insist this is a particularly strong draft for offensive tackles, with four legitimate stud left-tackle prospects in Monroe, Andre Smith, Baylor?s Jason Smith (who will probably be gone before the Raiders select) and Mississippi?s Michael Oher.
?I don?t know if there has ever been that many good ones in the first round like that,? Cable said. ?But there is this year. There has always been a number of first-round picks, don?t get me wrong, but some were right, some were left. These four guys probably can play left.?
Despite the strong market for beef, many believe the Raiders will opt for a receiver. They took quarterback JaMarcus Russell two years ago and running back Darren McFadden last year. Never before has this franchise drafted a skill-position player in the first round for three straight years, but someone like Crabtree might prove hard to resist.