Whether or not Obi Melifonwu heads to IR, there were already tons of questions about his place in the Gruden era. That combined with the age of Reggie Nelson, who is in the safety rotation despite driving us all mad last year, should make the Raiders look at free agent safeties.
Luckily, there is still a lot of talent available at the position for various reasons. Kenny Vacarro is a Pro Bowl caliber player coming off an injury and the Titans just signed him. The Cardinals also recently picked up Tre Boston. Both took one-year deals for barely over a million even though they have both been starters. The safety market has been slow and the Raiders can still find some talent.
Further, there is a lot of versatility left in the safety market. Good for the Raiders since Karl Joseph is a hitter at strong safety and a ball hawk at free safety. Marcus Gilchrist and Reggie Nelson can play either safety spot too. Adding another versatile veteran would allow Gilchrist to move to slot corner and Nelson to the bench. It might also allow Joseph to have a better athlete playing alongside him.
Eric Reid: Here is another Pro Bowl player that is available at safety. Unfortunately, this one is rather blackballed for being one of the first players to side with Kaep. Reid would be an ideal fit though, since he can play either safety position or coverage linebacker. He is a heck of an athlete, scheme versatile and a great leader but is still unsigned. Reid is 26, had two interceptions, over 50 tackles and a fumble recovery last season, but still can’t get paid? Oh yeah, he is familiar with the Bay too, which makes it even dumber that he is not already a Raider.
Mike Mitchell: Former Raider has put it together since the Silver and Black parted ways with him. The super athletic safety developed into what we hoped Obi would become a versatile safety and enforcer. However, with all the rule changes is a player like Mitchell still valuable? He also has one interception in two years, so a decline may be coming for the 31-year-old.
Tyvon Branch: Branch had resurgence since leaving the Silver and Black too. He started nine games for the Cardinals last year, but he had not had an interception in two years. Let us go with a younger player who is more durable because we have been here and done that.
Nate Allen: See Branch. Sure, Allen is a little younger. He had two interceptions in 2016 even if he had zero in seven starts last year. However, Allen left the Raiders after 2016 for a reason. Mainly, his durability.
Darius Butler: Butler has played all over the secondary in his career. However, he had no interceptions in four starts for a bad Colts team last year. He is far from an upgrade at this point in his career and he is over 30.
Jairus Byrd: More name than game for a couple of seasons. The 31-year-old barely played for Carolina last year.
T.J Ward: Teams typecasted him as a strong safety than other players on this list. Nonetheless, he had no interceptions in five starts with Tampa. The 31-year-old does have a Super Bowl ring but that hasn’t been enough to get him a deal so far.
Quintin Demps: Again, another player who barely cracked the starting rotation despite a resume that includes a ton of starts. Unlikely the Raiders are adding this journey man veg.
Keith McGill: Come on, you know I’m kidding. We can’t sit through another yeah of watching this guy play special teams and hoping he can put it all together.
Outside of Iloka, it’s probably unlikely the Raiders sign any of these safeties. Oakland can deal Mario Edwards Jr., restructure Khalil Mack’s contract or cut underperforming vets like Nelson, EJ Manuel and others on the pine to get Iloka.
Otherwise, a few of the safeties left on the market have Raiders ties that didn’t end the best. Others have had their chance to go to the Raiders in free agency before. The point is, the Raiders would’ve signed one of these guys if they wanted.
Therefore, if Iloka doesn’t come to Oakland the Raiders will probably take their chances with what they got at safety until further notice.
Of course, one more injury to the secondary could change all of that. At that point, hopefully the Raiders are smart enough to sign Reid or kick the tires on one of the other veterans.