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Cooper trade is latest move in sad tale of devolving Raiders

Sports Xchange
23 Oct 2018, 13:03 GMT+10

Starting with Sunday's visit by the Indianapolis Colts, the Oakland Raiders have five home games left in the 2018 season, with attractive opponents such as the Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos.

But the best ticket an Oakland Raiders fan could buy is for a plane ride to Las Vegas, probably a flight in the year 2020.

That is where and when the Raiders can be again expected to field a team worth the price of admission, assuming they know how to use their accumulated cache of high draft picks.

Coming off their bye week, the Raiders said bye-bye to two more stars Monday, trading wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys for a first-round draft pick and placing hometown running back Marshawn Lynch on injured reserve (groin), probably signifying the end of his career.

And if head coach Jon Gruden had not already lost his team, as the saying goes, he damn well may have done so Monday. During the early part of practice, a team official went out and asked Cooper to come in the office. Gruden never mentioned the deal to his players and indicated he will talk to the team on Wednesday.

That will not be necessary. By Wednesday, when this all sinks in, maybe the players won't believe Gruden any more than fans and media who recall him recently saying, "We aren't tanking anything," when asked about the thought the team was tanking his first season back. "Ain't nobody tanking."

But players know things without being told. On Monday they learned of the trade as soon as they went in the locker room and looked at their phones. But Gruden did announce that Lynch was placed on injured reserve.

These are the latest demoralizing developments for the devolving 1-5 Raiders, who already put tackle Donald Penn on injured reserve (groin) and, famously, traded former defensive player of the year Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears.

The Raiders now have three first-round picks in 2019- their own and those of the Bears and Cowboys -- and two in 2020, their own and that of the Bears. The way things are going, the best picks may be their own.

But all that doesn't mean much to Oakland fans, whose loyalty has been abused by both the team and local politicians. It will be interesting to see what happens after those famous Raiders tailgate parties Sunday. Will the fans watch and listen to the game from their parking lot parties, where food is better and less expensive? Or will they go into the Coliseum and witness another mugging of quarterback Derek Carr?

Raider Nation has shown amazing resilience by filling the relic of a stadium for each game so far.

In isolation, trading Cooper, the No. 4 player taken in the 2015 draft, for the Cowboys' first-round pick in 2019, isn't such a bad deal. Yes, Cooper's first two years in Oakland were productive, but he did not improve and may have regressed since. This season he was not creating separation from defenders. He was playing more like a fourth-round pick.

In fact, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones might certainly take heat for this deal as the 76-year old executive looks desperate, especially in the wake of releasing a superior receiver, Dez Bryant, before the season.

Cowboys fans are surely looking at this trade against the background of trading a first-, third- and sixth-round pick in 2008 for wide receiver Roy Williams, who was gone after 2010; and even back in 2000 when the Cowboys traded two first-round picks to the Seattle Seahawks for Joey Galloway and then went 5-11 the next three seasons. Cooper not only cost a first-round pick, but next year his fifth-year option is worth $14 million.

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie talked to reporters about the trade and some other things Monday, perhaps hinting it ain't over 'til it's over regarding personnel moves, despite Gruden's comments to the contrary.

Carr, to whom the team gave a $125 million extension last year, is still available. After seeing his brother David's career literally crushed by lack of pass protection, Derek's loyalty to the Silver and Black may not exceed his concern about being black and blue.

"We have another week to do something else," McKenzie told reporters, referring to the NFL's Oct. 30 trade deadline."

Does that mean we are waiting for the departure of yet another player? Isn't anybody "untouchable?"

"I'm untouchable," McKenzie said, although let's see about that in the offseason. "Seriously, I'm not going to say anyone's untouchable. In my heart of hearts would I hate to lose some players more than others? Absolutely ... The line as far as communication for me and any team will always be open to anyone on any one of our players."

On that ominous note, we will wait to see what Gruden has to say to his players Wednesday. Those who are still on the team, that is.

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