While many moves of the first day of 2021 free agency may be overshadowed by others, the Las Vegas Raiders made the best move of free agency, so far. Under Jon Gruden’s second tenure with the Raiders, pass rushers rarely exist, between with Maxx Crosby. Crosby, significantly leading the way with 17 sacks over his first two seasons in the NFL. For reference, former first-round pick Clelin Ferrell tallied 6.5 sacks in just as many seasons.
It became increasingly clear that Las Vegas needed a defensive superstar after trading Khalil Mack. Despite a quiet couple of hours to start free agency off, the Raiders found themselves working out a deal with Yannick Ngakoue. Ngakoue may not put up scary numbers, but he has recorded at least eight sacks in every season he has spent in the NFL. That consistency is exactly what Las Vegas needs at the moment. The six-year veteran recorded the second-most pressures since 2016.
Since Mack’s departure, the Raiders caught flashes from a handful of pass rushers. Other than Crosby, none stuck around in a meaningful sense. Signing Ngakoue gives the Raiders flexibility with their defensive line. No matter what he does, Clelin Ferrell hovers around the defensive tackle position. Ngakoue gives the Raiders a chance to make a permanent switch.
While this all sounds like an incredible, scheme-fitting signing, it might actually get better than that. In a move that sounds un-Gruden-like, the Raiders signed a defensive leader at an incredible price of $13 million per year. With a talent like Ngakoue, many expected the Raiders to sign him no matter what the asking price was. Yet, in a shocking move, the Raiders kept things fiscally civil and left space to add a few more pieces before the free agency period is over.
More Work Ahead
Signing Ngakoue was a great move by all standards, but the defensive improvement movement cannot stop now. After signing the former Maryland Terrapin, the Raiders still have $25 million to work with under the cap, leaving space for a star (Melvin Ingram, perhaps?) and some support, or just an entirely new defense of good players. Either way, I would hope to see the cap topped off by the end of the week. The Chiefs remain busy, the Raiders should follow.