The Raiders have been on a shopping spree this offseason, adding an elite cornerback in Sean Smith, a top-blocking guard in Kelechi Osemele and an outside linebacker with pass-rush ability in Bruce Irvin.
Now they’re waiting on the results of a physical to sign veteran safety Reggie Nelson, a Pro Bowler with the Bengals in 2015, and they still have an opportunity to add some important, impact pieces in the NFL draft that begins later this month.
But Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio sees this offseason as just an extension of his first season with the team.
In 2015, Del Rio and his staff led the Raiders to a 7-9 record after the team went 3-13 in 2014. That, he said recently, set the foundation for the turnaround of the franchise from a decade-plus of doldrums.
“Last year we established a winning culture and were competitive, really, in every game but the first one, and we just want to build on that,” Del Rio said in an interview with the NFL Network. “We’ve added three good, strong, tough young men (in free agency) and we’re going to keep attacking this offseason and strengthen ourselves the best way we can.”
While the Raiders haven’t had a winning season since 2002, Del Rio has insisted since joining the franchise that it can win soon. Del Rio has pointed to the Raiders’ 15-12 victory over the eventual Super Bowl-champion Broncos in 2015 as proof that his team can play with anybody.
Earlier this offseason, he said he believes the Raiders can take a big leap forward in 2016 and win the AFC West.
“I think it’s realistic for us,” Del Rio told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. “I thought it was realistic for us last year to pursue that goal. It’s all about the work we put in, coming together as a team.
“We laid a nice foundation last year. We established a winning culture, We expect to go into games to be competitive and win games.”
It’s evident, though, that the Raiders will continue to be proactive through this offseason, adding talent to help them take that next big step. Officially signing Nelson, perhaps Wednesday, will be the next key addition for general manager Reggie McKenzie and Del Rio.