The Las Vegas Raiders don’t waste a lot of time with their big decisions. On Monday, they parted ways with general manager Mike Mayock, which kickstarts the beginning of an offseason of great change. Despite the Raiders’ impressive 10-7 campaign and their first playoff appearance since 2016, owner Mark Davis sent a clear message. He’s raised the bar of expectations, and Mayock didn’t make the cut.
In December of 2018, the Raiders hired Mayock and he contributed to some highly questionable draft decisions over the past few years. Although former head coach Jon Gruden was likely afforded some final same in many decisions.
With the fourth overall pick in the 2019 draft, the Raiders selected defensive end Clelin Ferrell, who played 24% percent of the defensive snaps this season. Johnathan Abram, who went 27th in the same class, looks like nothing more than an average box safety.
Vegas has already waived both of its first-round picks from the 2020 group in wideout Henry Ruggs III and cornerback Damon Arnette for their actions away from the field. Rookie first-rounder Alex Leatherwood, who moved from tackle to guard after Week 4, has allowed eight sacks and committed 14 penalties, per Pro Football Focus.
With those whiffs and question marks on Mayock’s draft record, Davis rightfully wanted better for the Raiders. But who’s going to lead the team in a new direction? Let’s take a look at five realistic candidates for the general manager opening.
Related: 5 key questions for the Las Vega Raiders’ offseason
5. Las Vegas Raiders hire Ran Carthon
Ran Carthon played for two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts before he transitioned into the scouting and front-office personnel ranks. After his playing days, the former running back served in roles with three different teams.
Between 2008 and 2011, Carthon held a pro scout position under former Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff. The Falcons drafted quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones and went to the playoffs in three out of four years in that stretch.
While you may not give much credit to a scouting department that took Ryan and Jones within the top-six picks of their respective classes, just remember, the Raiders have fumbled multiple first-rounders in recent drafts.
Carthon spent four years with the then-St. Louis Rams between 2012 and 2016. Though none of those teams went to the playoffs under former head coach Jeff Fisher, the club picked up All-Pros in defensive tackle Aaron Donald (No. 13 overall in 2014) and Todd Gurley (No. 10 overall in 2015).
Since 2017, Carthon has handled personnel duties with the San Francisco 49ers. In 2021, he became the team’s director of player personnel. Over the past five years, the club has found All-Pro talent after the first round of drafts in tight end George Kittle, linebacker Fred Warner and wide receiver Deebo Samuel.
Recently, Carthon interviewed for the New York Giants and Chicago Bears (h/t The Athletic’s Matt Barrows) general manager positions.
Related: Las Vegas Raiders head coach candidates
4. Raiders bring in Kwesi Adofo-Mensah
Davis can play chess with his interest in Kwesi Adofo-Mensah if he wants to make a push for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
As Pro Football Focus contributor Brad Spielberger points out, Adofo-Mensah worked with Harbaugh in San Francisco for a short period between 2013 and 2014. The former remained with the 49ers through the 2019 season and then accepted the vice president of football operation position with the Cleveland Browns in May of 2020 under general manager Andrew Berry.
Along with Berry, Adofo-Mensah has played a role in turning the Browns into a competitive squad after decades of subpar seasons. In 2020, the Browns won a playoff game for the first time since 1994.
Adofo-Mensah has an economic background that’s connected to Wall Street, so he should know how to handle the salary cap, which is important for a Raiders’ squad with about $40 million in projected cap space for the 2022 offseason (per Over the Cap). Also, quarterback Derek Carr is pushing for a new contract, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (h/t Bleacher Report’s Tim Daniels).
Related: Derek Carr’s uncertain future with the Las Vegas Raiders
3. Dave Ziegler (New England Patriots’ director of player personnel)
Ziegler had a role with the Denver Broncos’ scouting department in 2011 and 2012, but he rose through the ranks with the New England Patriots over the past nine years. The front-office executive took on an expanded role after Nick Caserio accepted the Houston Texans’ general manager position.
Though head coach Bill Belichick makes the final calls with the Patriots, Ziegler may have influenced the team’s aggressive approach in free agency, per CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones: “I’m told he totally changed the Pats draft process in 2021 and helped Belichick spend big in free agency.”
Last offseason, New England spent a lot of money, signing edge-rusher Matt Judon, tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, linebacker Kyle Van Noy along with wideouts Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. Overall, the Patriots’ strategy helped push the club back into the playoff picture after a 7-9 campaign in 2020.
If Davis wants someone who’s not afraid to open the checkbook, Ziegler could be his guy.
Related: Las Vegas Raiders QB options for 2022 season
2. Las Vegas Raiders hire Ed Dodds from the Colts
This isn’t Ed Dodds’ first rodeo in the hiring cycle. Two years ago, Dodds passed on a potential interview for the Cleveland Browns’ general manager position, per Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star. Still a hot name, the Raiders have an interest in Dodds too.
Per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the Bears have conducted an interview with Dodds. Clearly, he’s a candidate with some buzz because of his association with general manager Chris Ballard and the Colts’ well-run operation.
In 2017, the Colts hired Dodds for the vice president of player personnel position and then he became the assistant general manager two years later. Despite issues with the quarterback position, Indianapolis has built playoff-caliber rosters, taking cornerstone-type players in wideout Michael Pittman Jr. and 2021 rushing champion Jonathan Taylor in the second round of the 2020 draft.
Before Dodds’ tenure with the Colts, he was part of the Seattle Seahawks’ personnel department for 10 years and eventually became their senior personnel director. Keep in mind, in 2012, he had a role with the group that did a lot of work on quarterback Russell Wilson, who wants to “explore his options.”
If you believe the mantra, “once a Raider always a Raider,” Dodds spent four years with the team before his tenure with the Seahawks. Davis may bring a familiar face back into the organization.
1. Jeff Ireland heads to the Las Vegas Raiders
As a general manager, Jeff Ireland had a rocky six-year stint with the Miami Dolphins between 2008 and 2013. The team went 46-50 in that stretch with one playoff appearance and one winning season.
After spending one year with the Seahawks as a draft consultant, Ireland resurfaced with the New Orleans Saints as an assistant general manager and college scouting director in January of 2015.
The Saints haven’t finished with a losing record since the 2016 campaign. Head coach Sean Payton has praised Ireland for his impact on the organization’s draft evaluation process.
“That was completely revamped,” Payton said. “I think Jeff Ireland has done an outstanding job and how we look at players, all of that, was overhauled, if you will. And I think that the results are paying off, fortunately for us.”
With Ireland onboard, New Orleans selected three-time Pro Bowl guard Andrus Peat in the first round of the 2015 draft and two-time All-Pro wideout Michael Thomas in the third round of the 2016 draft.
The Saints hit a home run with their 2017 draft class that includes cornerback Marshon Lattimore, left tackle Ryan Ramczyk, safety Marcus Williams, running back Alvin Kamara, linebacker Alex Anzalone, defensive end Trey Hendrickson and defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad. All those players still contribute to the team or start elsewhere.
In more recent drafts, New Orleans has also found viable starters after the first round in center Erik McCoy (No. 48 overall in 2019), versatile defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (No. 105 in 2019), linebacker Pete Werner (No. 60 overall in 2021) and cornerback Paulson Adebo (No. 76 overall in 2021).
If Davis wants someone with experience, Ireland could get another shot at a general manager position because of his influence in New Orleans. Also, keep in mind, Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer believes the owner could try to acquire Payton from the Saints for the head-coaching job:
Maurice Moton covers the Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.