Raiders’ fans calmed down after what proved to be a harrowing, for some, first week of free agency. When the Raiders initially courted some of the bigger names, it ended with the player in question somewhere else. In the end, however, after the dust settled, the Raiders signed players who likely will start. Furthermore, they avoided the trap of “winning” free agency by signing players to long and unsustainable contracts. Yet there remain a number of positions with major holes that the Raiders will need to address in April.
- Interior Defender
To be frank, this is the worst position group on the team by far. While the Raiders certainly do not have to chase and spend a first round pick here, they do need to invest draft capital. It is hard to say they should seek a pass rusher on the interior, as there simply are not very many humans capable of such things. Barring that, the Raiders need to find a DT/NT who can fill the middle and anchor the defense. While Vita Vea is possibly the best overall talent at the position, the recently diagnosed Marcus Hurst might have the highest ceiling of any interior defensive linemen in the draft.
- Middle/ Outside Linebacker
Adding Tahir Whitehead in the second wave of free agency might turn out to be the most pivotal signing for the team. His versatility allows the Raiders to be creative with the next leader of their linebacker corps. If the Raiders were to draft Roquan Smith, he would slot nicely on the weakside, as smith is as natural of a Middle Linebacker as there is in the draft. If, however, the Raiders opt for ceiling over polish and select Tremaine Edmunds, Whitehead can play any other starting linebacker position, or back them all up. While General Manager Reggie McKenzie has never taken a linebacker in the early rounds, the upgrade and talent available at 10 may be too enticing to pass.
- Offensive Tackle
With Penn showing some minor signs of decline and questions at right tackle, the Raiders will address this in April. There is a solid chance that the week one starter is already on the team in David Sharpe or Vadal Alexander. However, with Marshall Newhouse gone, no name can be placed at RT with any certainty. While it is unlikely they choose one in the first round, they may double back and choose Brian O’Neill or Kolton Miller later.
The signing of Rashaan Melvin breathed life into a secondary that had lost three of its top four cornerbacks. Raashad projects as an Outside Cornerback and with T.J. Carrie gone the Raiders no longer have a Nickleback that they have seen before. To cover the hole, the team signed Shareece Wright. He’s played for multiple teams and has never shown to be more than average. If Denzel Ward is available at 10, then the Raiders could certainly use the help on the inside. While the need is not what it was a week ago, the position needs depth. After a week of adding solid talent, Ward could turn cornerback into strength.
- Edge Defender / Pass Rusher
Last week, the Raiders announced that Bruce Irvin would not only remain with the team, but move to end. Shortly after the team fired Ken Norton Jr, John Pagano nixed Irvin in coverage and played him at end. He notched five sacks in 3 weeks, but also highlighted that the Raiders are in desperate need. Mario Edwards Jr. has not panned out. However, if the Raiders added Bradley Chubb with the 10th overall pick, the line immediately transforms. Chubb would allow the defense to ensure one-on-one match-ups for Khalil Mack. As a result, his presence bolsters the pass rush, and tilts the field in the Raiders favor.