Oakland Raiders’ Expectations for 2016 Now Sky-High After Early Free-Agency Haul

The rest of the AFC should be worried, because the Oakland Raiders are lurking. The organization once led by the great Al Davis made massive improvements through the first two days of free agency. 

With the additions of cornerback Sean Smith, linebacker Bruce Irvin and guard Kelechi Osemele (even more names could eventually be added), Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie added three key components while spending $135.5 million in total contract value during the first 24 hours of the new league year. 

Each of these pieces add to a team that improved to 7-9 last season under the direction of first-year head coach Jack Del Rio, the team's most wins since the 2011 campaign, in which the Raiders finished 8-8 overall under Hue Jackson. 

More importantly, three performers established themselves as legitimate building blocks last year. 

Derek Carr started his ascension toward franchise-quarterback status. The second-year signal-caller threw for 3,987 yards, 32 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions. 

While Carr improved, the team's 2014 first-round draft pick, Khalil Mack, rocketed toward superstardom. Mack finished second overall behind the Houston Texans' J.J. Watt with 15 quarterback sacks. According to Pro Football Focus, Mack also finished as the league's best run defender among edge players. 

McKenzie hit a home run with Carr and Mack in the same draft class. The general manager was still on point when he selected wide receiver Amari Cooper with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. The Alabama product led all rookies with 72 receptions and 1,070 yards. Due to his exceptional first-year performance, Cooper earned his first Pro Bowl berth. 

Teams build through the draft. This is what the Raiders have done successfully over the past two years. Free agency, meanwhile, is an opportunity to accentuate a roster.

With Carr, Co...

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