The question facing the Oakland Raiders is not so much about what to do with the No. 5 overall pick in May as it is about who will be available.
Head coach Dennis Allen admitted at the Scouting Combine that quarterback is "a position we've obviously got to look at."
With Terrelle Pryor failing to show enough progression as a passer in 2013 and Matt McGloin looking like a solid career back up, the Raiders are overwhelmingly expected to target a quarterback with the No. 5 overall pick - provided one of the top prospects is available.
Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater (No. 3 overall), Central Florida's Blake Bortles (No. 5) and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel (No. 7) are all top 10 prospects according to NFLDraftScout.com. All three have had their names tied to the Houston Texans with the No. 1 overall pick at one point or another, while the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Cleveland Browns picking directly in front of the Raiders also candidates to snag a quarterback.
Oakland's personnel department has been pouring over game tape, and is in Indianapolis this week to meet with dozens of prospects. The most polarizing remains Manziel, who was a popular topic for each of the teams in the top five in need of a franchise quarterback.
"He's accomplished a lot at the collegiate level he's been a very good football player being the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy speaks for itself," said Allen. "I think he's a very talented football player, he's a multidimensional football player. He's able to throw the ball from the pocket and do things with his feet. As we get more into the evaluation process he'll be a fun one to look at."
With three quarterback-needy teams ahead of them and three potential top-four quarterbacks, the Raiders are perched in a precarious situation that could see them selecting at No. 5 without one of the elite prospects left to choose from. The good news in that scenario is the Raiders would then have one of the draft's elite prospects fall into their lap - either South Carolina pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney or Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson.
That leaves Allen balancing the tightrope between acknowledging the team's need for a young franchise arm to groom and not tossing out the futures of Pryor and McGloin. Can one of the two open next season as the starter?
"One of those things we have to determine," said Allen. "We're going to look at that position very closely. In my opinion we've got two young quarterbacks with potential. But I think that's a position we've obviously got to look at."
Pryor started off last season showing promise, but the vast majority of his big plays came courtesy of his legs, while his ability to run the passing attack remained highly inconsistent.
"You saw a young quarterback that needs time to develop," said Allen. "There was times where he went out and played exceptionally well. There was times where he didn't play as well. We need to learn from those mistakes."
Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie will continue to weight the team's options - including the potential of moving up or down in the draft depending on how they view the top three quarterbacks, and their ability to land one they covet.
Bottom line is the Raiders prepare for the NFL Draft uncertain if their starting quarterback for next season is on the roster.
"I don't know the answer to that yet," said Allen. "The quarterback position is the backbone of your football team. We've got to make sure that when we go out there this year, we put ourselves in the best position to have success with the quarterback position."
--Raiders owner Mark Davis was in position to play hard ball last season, when the team'slease at O.co Coliseum expired.
The door was open, but Davis extended an olive branch with a new group involved in hopes of progressing toward a new stadium before the start of the 2014 season. To date, his faith goes unrewarded.
"We will play in the Coliseum next year," Davis told the San Francisco Chronicle. "But there's been no progress. I had high hopes when Colony Capital came in. I still do have hopes, but there not as high because I haven't really heard anything positive from either group. It's gone silent again. We have to get something done."
Davis is not yet threatening to move the franchise -- famously the Raiders have moved before, with late father Al Davis at the controls -- and might need to sell controlling, majority interest to push it past the significant wall the NFL could stack up.
But he's not mincing words about the consequences of not progressing toward a stadium the franchise doesn't share with the Oakland Athletics. With the shiny new billion-dollar stadium going up in Santa Clara -- the 2014 home of the San Francisco 49ers, who shut down Candlestick Park last season -- Davis has some added motivation to act now. Co-tenancy with the 49ers was an option for the Raiders, but Davis turned down that shared set-up, too.
"I don't want to call it a last-ditch effort, but it does seem to be the last chance that Oakland is going to get," Davis said. "We can't continue to play in that stadium, with the baseball field and all of that stuff."
If Davis has a Plan B he is not telling.
"I don't want to talk about using someplace else for leverage. If I get something done in Oakland, I am staying," he said.
--The Raiders signed cornerback Taiwan Jones to a three-year contract extension. The extension is worth $4.355 million and puts Jones under contract through the 2017 season.
Jones became an important part of the Raiders' special teams in 2013 after moving from running back to cornerback last summer. He has never started a game in his three seasons in the NFL, but he averaged 24.0 yards on kick returns in 2013.
"I was excited when they came to me about the extension. It is definitely a blessing for a local kid to be part of the Raiders' turnaround," Jones, who is from Antioch, Calif., said in a statement. "I've been an underdog all my life, so I think it's very fitting for me to remain here. I'm definitely excited about it."
--Free safety Charles Woodson is a free agent after finishing his one-year deal with the Raiders, but it sounds as if the door is open for the 37-year-old to potential return to Oakland in 2014.
"I definitely think he's got something left in the tank," said Raiders head coach Dennis Allen. "Obviously when you get to that age you never know when the tank is going to empty out.
"He's a guy we'd like to hopefully be able to bring back. From a leadership perspective and really from a play perspective, I thought he brought a lot to the table."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You really never know what to expect, he's all over the place. I just try to let him do his thing back there. I don't consider him a me-first player at all. He's a tremendous competitor, a great leader, and someone I felt privileged to have as my quarterback." - Texas A&M left tackle Jake Matthews on former teammate QB Johnny Manziel.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--The Raiders re-signed guard/tackle Khalif Barnes. Barnes, 31, started all 16 games in 2013, including 11 at left tackle and five at left guard.
"I'm so excited to be back," Barnes said in a statement provided by the Raiders. "I'm going on my sixth year here, and we've had some ups and downs but there are some unfinished things we have to do here. I want to be a part of the process that turns this thing around. I believe in (coach) Dennis (Allen) and I believe in (general manager) Reggie (McKenzie). I am just excited I get the chance to come back and help this team win."
Barnes originally signed with the Raiders as an unrestricted free agent in 2009 and was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 11.
--The Raiders announced the hiring of Chris Boniol as assistant special teams coach and Vernon Stephens as assistant strength and conditioning coach.
Boniol joins the Raiders after spending four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys as their assistant special teams coach. Boniol, a former NFL kicker, played six seasons in the NFL with the Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears.
Stephens spent six seasons with the San Diego Chargers (2007-12) in the same capacity as assistant strength and conditioning coach. Stephens came to the Chargers after four years as the assistant speed, strength and conditioning coach at the University of Colorado (2003-06).
--The Raiders hired Joe Woods as secondary coach and Marcus Robertson as assistant secondary coach. Woods is a 10-year coaching veteran, the last eight as secondary coach with the Minnesota Vikings. Robertson was a secondary coach for the Detroit Lions in 2012-13 and before that worked five seasons for the Tennessee Titans.
The two replaced Johnnie Lynn and Clayton Lopez, who were not retained on head coach Dennis Allen's staff for the 2014 season.
--It won't be as fluid as last season, when the Raiders ended up replacing 10 starters on defense, but the personnel shakeup could be considerable considering the glut of unrestricted free agents along the defensive line and in the secondary.
All four defensive line starters -- right end Lamarr Houston, tackles Pat Sims and Vaughn Walker and left end Jason Hunter -- are unrestricted free agents.
In the secondary, starting corners Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins and free safety Charles Woodson could all be free agents.
The linebacker position is the stable point of the defense, with middle linebacker Nick Roach, outside linebackers Kevin Burnett and Sio Moore and reserves Kaluka Maiava and Miles Burris all under contract.
Scheduled for unrestricted free agency in March
--WR Jacoby Ford
--C-G Andre Gurode
--DE Lamarr Houston
--DE Jason Hunter
--CB Mike Jenkins
--RB Rashad Jennings
--TE Jeron Mastrud
--RB Darren McFadden
--DT Daniel Muir
--T Tony Pashos
--CB Tracy Porter
--DT Pat Sims
--LT Jared Veldheer
--DT Vance Walker
--FS Charles Woodson
--S Usama Young
DEFENSIVE END: The Raiders had to take too many chances with blitzes because they couldn't mount a pass rush otherwise.
QUARTERBACK: With the team on record saying the quarterback of the future may not be on the roster, it made possible the use of the No. 5 overall pick for one.
CORNERBACK: With Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins unrestricted free agents, getting a solid corner early in the draft to start alongside DJ Hayden could be a priority.
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