American Football

Raiders 2023 preview: Changing of the guard


NFL: Hall of Fame Game-Jacksonville Jaguars at Las Vegas Raiders
Dylan Parham is likely to again start at one of the guard spots on the Las Vegas Raiders offensive line. Drafted in 2022 as an heir apparent at the center position, Parham’s versatility allowed the Raiders to put him at left guard. | Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dylan Parham is a promising starter at one spot, but what about the other?

The musical chairs rotation the Las Vegas Raiders used for much of last season to put together the best starting five offensive linemen is a thing of the past.

Or is it?

From left to right, the early-look Las Vegas front five is: Kolton Miller (left tackle), Dylan Parham (left guard), Andre James (center), Alex Bars (right guard) and Jermaine Eluemunor (right tackle). This is largely based on starts, experience, and continuity.

Yet, when it comes to the right guard spot in the trenches, perhaps we’ll see a condensed version of a rotation if the offseason team activities (OTAs), training camp, and preseason games don’t sort things out first.

With seven pure guards on the roster and two tackles with guard experience (Eluemunor is one of them), a spirited fight for the right guard spot in between James and Eluemunor helps the Raiders as a whole. Bars is the incumbent who was resigned, having played in 15 games last season with 14 starts.

The Competition (alphabetical order):

  • Alex Bars (15 games, 14 starts in 2022)
  • McClendon Curtis (UDFA 2023)
  • Jermaine Eluemunor (guard/tackle; 17 games, 17 starts in 2022)
  • Vitaliy Gurman (UDFA 2022)
  • Jordan Meredith (1 game, 0 starts in 2022)
  • Justin Murray (guard/tackle; 5 games, 0 starts in 2022 – Buffalo)
  • Netane Muti (1 game, 0 starts in 2022 – Denver)
  • Dylan Parham (17 games, 17 starts in 2022)
  • Greg Van Roten (16 games, 4 starts in 2022 – Buffalo)

Expect Bars, a 6-foot-5 and 334-pound four-year veteran, to compete with Netane Muti (6-3, 315 three-year veteran), undrafted free agent McClendon Curtis (6-6, 324), and Greg Van Roten (6-3, 305, eight-year veteran). Of that group, Curtis is an intriguing option not only for youth and size, but from a contract perspective, too. The UT-Chattanooga product inked one of the top undrafted free agent deals with $210,000 guaranteed ($185,000 of his salary guaranteed, $25,000 signing bonus).

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports
UT-Chattanooga’s McClendon Curtis (52) showed he can compete with other collegiate prospects at the Senior Bowl. While he wasn’t drafted, the Las Vegas Raiders give him one of the top undrafted free agent deals after the NFL Draft.

Curtis showed at the Senior Bowl he has talent to compete and with the Raiders coaching staff preaching competition and earning snaps, he’ll likely be in the mix for the right guard spot. And the league is littered with undrafted offensive linemen earning starting snaps — Bars and Van Roten among them. The pro experience between the two — 53 career games, 25 starts for Bars; 93 games, 54 starts for Van Roten — may give them the edge over younger counterparts in Muti and Curtis.

The shape of the right guard spot doesn’t preclude other names on the competition slate above from potentially earning the starting nod, either. Add into the mix a potential fight to man the right tackle spot that Eluemunor held down for much of last season, may blur the lines between the interior and exterior spots on the right side of the Raiders offensive line.

Eluemunor is the incumbent, but the team did bring back Brandon Parker who is a swing tackle type but struggled during Las Vegas 2022 preseason slate before a season-ending tricep injury shelved him. Considered a project third-round pick back in 2018, the 6-8, 320-pounder has played in 54 games as a Raider with 32 starts. He’ll have an uphill climb to supplant Eluemunor.

Then there’s second-year player Thayer Munford Jr. who showed promise to merit four starts while playing in all 17 games as a seventh-round pick in the 2022 draft. The 6-6, 320 pounder garnered 370 snaps on offense (34 percent of the team’s total offensive snaps)

Justin Murray is another veteran who will showcase his wares at right tackle, but another undrafted free agent provides intriguing potential in Dalton Wagner.

The Arkansas product is raw but at 6-8 and 320 pounds, he has uncommon length and power as a right tackle. While many taller tackles get pushed around do to being too upright, Wagner showcases the ability to anchor despite his height. He’s more in-tune with pass protection than run blocking but his potential threshold is high.

That is all to say: If anyone supplants Eluemunor from the right tackle spot, the six-year veteran can slide inside to battle for the right guard position.

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