ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Jon Gruden, decked out in a white hard hat with the Raiders logo emblazoned on it and a fluorescent vest and gloves with safety goggles perched atop his nose, was blown away.
The Oakland Raiders' coach was taking a tour of his team's new home, $2 billion Allegiant Stadium just off the Las Vegas Strip -- which is still quite under construction, mind you -- and the future was staring Gruden in the face. "Jaw dropping" was how Gruden described the sleek and shiny black glass dome, which will seat 65,000, have a clear roof and a natural grass field.
"I was a coach's kid at Notre Dame, got to coach for the Green Bay Packers and as a broadcaster, I got to see a lot of different stadiums," Gruden said in a video released by Raiders.com. "I have never seen a place like this. This place is off the hook."
Welcome, then, to the biggest change facing the Raiders this offseason. Their new digs are expected to be the biggest lure for the franchise as it tries to, ahem, hook quality free agents this offseason (yes, the Raiders hold a $10 million option to play in the Oakland Coliseum this fall should the Las Vegas digs not be ready, but officials say 'The Al' is on schedule).
"We go from a 13 percent state tax in California to a zero percent state tax in Nevada," Raiders general manager Mike Mayock told the team's website. "The players and their agents are very aware of that."
As is the gaggle of Raiders Gruden and Mayock have to make decisions on -- we'll leave quarterback Derek Carr out of the equation for now -- as the team currently has 19 scheduled unrestricted free agents and three scheduled restricted free agents on its roster.
The bigger names include former first-rounder Karl Joseph at safety (he was playing his best ball since Gruden arrived when he broke his right foot planting and pushing off for a game-sealing interception against Philip Rivers in Week 10) and middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict (do the Raiders take another chance on a guy who is obviously on double-secret probation and could be booted by the league for another infraction?).
Meanwhile, the likes of defensive ends Benson Mayowa (seven sacks) and Dion Jordan (two sacks in seven games), linebacker Will Compton (took over defensive playcalling duties late in the season), defensive back Daryl Worley (played all over the secondary) and running backs DeAndre Washington (carried the ball 54 times for 215 yards and caught 16 passes for 119 in the three games Josh Jacobs missed late in the season) and Jalen Richard (has 104 receptions in two years under Gruden) might have played themselves into new contracts in Las Vegas.
And Gruden seems to like restricted free-agent quarterback Nathan Peterman enough to bring back after he spent the season on injured reserve.
Incognito, who was on his best behavior for the Raiders last season and played well, took to Twitter to give his thoughts on calling Sin City home next season.
Ready to go! Should be pretty chill... 🤣 https://t.co/V3Ud6wu68f— Richie Incognito (@68INCOGNITO) January 9, 2020
Good did the same.
See you in Vegas ☠️ pic.twitter.com/lU9y658dV5— Denzelle Good (@IBeDG_71) January 9, 2020
Yes, the Raiders, who are expected to have more than $60 million in salary cap space to go with seven draft picks -- including five of the first 91 selections -- have decisions to make on their own free agents. After all, Peterman, running back Isaiah Crowell, receiver/return specialist Dwayne Harris, Joseph and offensive lineman Jordan Devey all ended the season on IR.
But perhaps most glaring is the need for a true No. 1 receiver. The Raiders were playing catch up at the position all season after Antonio Brown's implosion and release the week before the season opener.
"I think we've got a good offensive line and what we have to do is a better job of supporting [Carr] with some more wide receiver talent," Mayock said, "the ability to catch the football ... the ability to spread the ball around a little bit.
"We lost five of our last six [games]. I think what it did was illuminate to me that we, our depth has to get better. We got beat up a little bit. And in the NFL, everybody gets beat up. I've got to do a better job of helping Jon have enough depth to get through a season at a high level ... we want to add to that foundation with more quality, with young players in our rookie class this year. You know, we talk a lot about foundations both on and off the field. We want to bring great people into our building both in free agency and the draft. We want to have better depth than we had last year and we want to finish."
Indeed, the Raiders, who finished 7-9 a year after going 4-12, remained in the playoff hunt into Week 17. So yes, finishing the season strong would be nice.
And for what it's worth, the Raiders have removed "Oakland" from all of their social media accounts and the city's name has been removed from the current headquarters in Alameda. They are expected to officially become the "Las Vegas" Raiders with the start of the NFL league year on March 18 and will hold all of their offseason programs in Alameda, then hold training camp in Napa before breaking camp and heading to Southern Nevada.
Still, the star of the Raiders' offseason is their new stadium, referred to as the Death Star by locals and, yes, team officials expect the Black Hole -- which was part of the fabric in Oakland -- to also rear its head in the south end zone in Las Vegas.
"You've got to see this to believe it, man," Gruden said of the stadium. "I can't get over it.
"You can have a vision for this stuff, man, but when you make it a reality, man, it's hard to believe. People aren't going to believe this."
Unrestricted free agents (19): QB Mike Glennon, RB Jalen Richard, RB Isaiah Crowell, RB DeAndre Washington, RB Rod Smith, WR/RS Dwayne Harris, TE Eric Tomlinson, OL Jordan Devey, DE Benson Mayowa, DE Josh Mauro, DE Dion Jordan, DT Olsen Pierre, LB Kyle Wilber, LB Vontaze Burfict, LB Will Compton, CB Daryl Worley. S Karl Joseph, S Curtis Riley.