Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has become quite the prolific recruiter for the Las Vegas Raiders. The Oakland, California, native still loves the team despite them moving to Nevada. Just this offseason, he’s gone out of his way to recruit the likes of Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson to the team.
Those guys were available in free agency this offseason but it looks like Lillard is expanding his efforts. Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman hit up the NBA superstar on Twitter to get him a follow. Lillard suggested he’d only do it if Hardman came to the Raiders.
It makes sense why Lillard wouldn’t give him an easy follow. The Raiders and Chiefs are heated rivals and the fan bases don’t like each other very much. It’s highly unlikely Hardman will ever wear the silver and black. He’s been an important player for the Chiefs over the past two years and even made a Pro Bowl in 2019 for his elite ability as a returner. With Sammy Watkins off to the Baltimore Ravens, Hardman will be even more important for Kansas City this year.
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Raiders-Chiefs Rivalry Is Back
Over the past five years, the Chiefs have dominated the AFC West. Andy Reid has led a team that is incredibly tough to beat. The addition of Patrick Mahomes turned them from a solid team to a potentially all-time great team. The Raiders haven’t done very well against them.
Prior to last season, Las Vegas had lost four straight games to the Chiefs. The once-storied rivalry wasn’t much of a rivalry anymore, but the Raiders were able to turn things around in 2020. They were able to go to Kansas City and beat them in Arrowhead. They also almost beat the Chiefs a second time in Las Vegas. It appears that Jon Gruden has cracked the code on how to compete with the Chiefs. It will still be hard to beat them, but it’s clear that the rivalry is back.
Can Raiders Compete for AFC West in 2021?
Throughout the first 10 games of last season, it looked like the Raiders were becoming legitimate contenders in the AFC West. They started off 6-4 and had wins over the Chiefs, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns. Things were looking great for Las Vegas.
Then the team collapsed, went 2-4 down the stretch and missed the playoffs. That marks two years in a row the team started off 6-4 and ended up missing the playoffs. That’s not exactly promising for a team that has been to the playoffs only once since 2002. Based on this offseason, there’s not much reason to be more confident in the Raiders. They’ve torn apart the offensive line and still haven’t addressed major needs in the secondary.
The Chiefs also dismantled their offensive line, but they don’t have nearly as many issues as the Raiders. 2021 will be a tough year for the silver and black. There are major question marks all over the roster. If the young players can show major improvement, perhaps they can be a playoff team, but as of right now, it looks like the Raiders won’t be true contenders until 2022 at the earliest.