The Las Vegas Raiders got busy when free agency opened a few weeks ago. However, the Silver and Black still holds about $6-8 million in cap space. They should use every last dollar to add more competition. What free agents should the Raiders consider at this point in free agency?
Free Agency Recap
Vegas addressed pass rush needs by signing edge Yannick Ngakoue, defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson, defensive tackle Soloman Thomas and more. All these players will compete across a defensive line that finished in the bottom five for sacks last season. Starting safeties Lamarcus Joyner and Erik Harris is finally gone. Linebacker Nicolas Morrow, corner Nevin Lawson and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins returned. On the other side of the ball, they made difficult decisions trading Rodney Hudson, Trent Brown, and Gabe Jackson for draft picks. They brought back Richie Incognito after releasing him. He missed most of last season with an injury. Versatile veteran lineman Denzelle Good re-signed. Receiver Zay Jones, Tight end Derek Carrier and running back Theo Riddick all re-signed as veteran depth too.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota re-negotiated his contract. Center Andre James left tackle Kolton Miller both signed extensions. Receiver John Brown and running back Kenyan Drake bring speed to the offense, even if they are not clear starters. Receiver Willie Snead and former center Nick Martin signed as quality veteran depth. The Raiders addressed many needs in free agencies but they can still fill a few voids before the draft later this month.
Either way, the Raiders did not add to a secondary that finished in the bottom six for interceptions. They should consider signing both a corner and safety if the money makes cents. Trayvon Mullen and Damon Arnette project as starters at corner. Both players were selected in the first two rounds. They were up and down as starters in their first seasons. Adding a veteran corner to mentor those players makes too much sense.
The safety spot is not much better. Safety Jeff Heath surprised with three interceptions last year. Heath played free safety for the Raiders last year but started at strong safety for the Cowboys. Safety Johnathan Abram was a first-round pick a few years ago but PFF ranked him in the bottom for coverage. Both those positions need a jolt. The Raiders have invested draft capital at the position over the last few years so it makes more sense to sign a veteran in free agency.
Vegas could use more depth along the offensive line too. Brown left a massive void at right tackle. Good can play guard or tackle. Brandon Parker and John Simpson flashed as starters but they have yet to show they can consistently start. More depth along the offensive line is needed. They could sign a guard or tackle, depending on where they want Good playing.
Las Vegas’ cap situation is not exactly clear as Spotrac and OvertheCap do not currently reflect some of their recent extensions and re-negotiations. Most of their leftover cap space will go towards signing rookies after the NFL Draft. Nonetheless, the Raiders can make some cap room to sign another veteran free agent or two. The Raiders can create almost $4 million in cap space by cutting running back Jalen Richard and defensive end Arden Key. They are both competing for their jobs. Defensive tackle Mo Hurst and Parker offer similar cap savings but they would be harder to cut.
Dollar and Sense
In the end, Vegas can make cap space for the right free agent. Veterans should also consider signing a bargain deal with Vegas since the tax situation is much more favorable than other states. Here is who the Raiders should consider in free agency right now.
Entering the 2017 draft, Malik Hooker looked like a can’t miss player. A torn ACL seven games into his rookie season and a torn Achilles last year are why Hooker is available in free agency right now. Still, the 2017 fifteenth-overall pick is only twenty-five. He registered seven interceptions in 35 starts over four years. That is consistent playmaking the Raiders need.
Hooker missed all but two games last season. He appears to be healthy as he worked out with the Dallas Cowboys earlier this offseason. The Cowboys opted for other safety options. At best, Vegas adds a playmaking free safety on a one-year prove-it deal by signing Hooker. If Hooker gets back to form, then the Raiders might finally have a long-term starter at free safety. Worst case, they add a cheap boom or bust safety to compete with Jeff Heath for the starting free safety role or the third safety position.
Adding Hooker would give the Raiders more flexibility with Heath and Abrams at safety. Both might be better at strong safety anyways. Not to mention, the Raiders won’t be forced to draft a safety with one of their first few picks if they sign Hooker. Of course, the Raiders could also consider veteran safeties like Jahleel Addae, Tashaun Gipson, Tre Boston, or Bradley McDougald. However, none hold the same upside as Hooker.
At the beginning of the offseason, there were rumors about the Raiders pursuing a veteran corner like Richard Sherman, A.J Bouye, or Patrick Peterson. Peterson signed for $10 million with the Vikings and Sherman might not be an option if he wants a similar deal.
Great Potential Move
Either way, Casey Hayward makes sense as a bargain-free agent signing for the Raiders. Again, Vegas stayed the course at corner because they hope their young players take the next step. Adding Hayward gives those young corners a quality veteran mentor. Hayward also knows the scheme since he played four years under current Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley with the Chargers. Plus, he knows the AFC west well. Hayward is thirty-two but still offers some games. He registered one of his 23 career interceptions in thirteen starts last year. Groin and back injuries caused him to miss some starts.
Regardless, Hayward can play inside or outside. Let’s not forget how many injuries the Raiders secondary suffered last year. Hayward can compete with Lawson for the nickel duties. He can push Mullen and Arnette for starting time outside. At the very least, he is quality depth if any of the Raiders’ top corners get hurt.
Other corners the Raiders could consider include Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Dre Kirkpatrick, Corn Elder, or Rasul Douglas.
Again, poaching a bargain from an AFC West rival makes sense for Las Vegas. Mitchell Schwartz was one of the most consistent right tackles before an unforeseen back injury struck this season. Schwartz recently underwent back surgery but he is expected to recover before the season begins. Schwartz would give the Raiders a great insurance policy if Parker is not ready to start at right tackle. They can move Good to guard and form a massive offensive line. Good can compete with Simpson for that right guard spot. Adding a veteran right tackle also means the Raiders won’t have to force a tackle selection in the first few rounds. They may also consider Ricky Wagner who is a highly experienced right tackle. Isaiah Wilson and Germain Ifedi could also help and they have more upside.
Still, Schwartz makes the most sense since he will not command a large salary off back surgery. Signing Schwartz also ensures the Chiefs will not re-sign him for another Super Bowl run later.
Ultimately, the Raiders have many veteran free agency options this late in free agency. Whether they sign a safety, corner, tackle, or all three, the Raiders can still add competition for cheap.