Following a season marred by injury issues with more exciting hits from Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib than from the Raiders defense as a whole to a missed shot at the postseason. Much of Raider Nation has been left shaking their heads — But at least “Chucky” is back, right?
With the bulk of the Raiders’ issues stemming from a defense that ranked 23rd in total yards allowed and 26th against the pass, and in a division that features some of the fastest legs on the outside that we have ever seen, Jon Gruden should address this issue first. These select free agent corners would go a long way in addressing a woeful pass defense and sparking the Raiders’ return to excellence.
After being hit with the franchise tag for the last two seasons, Trumaine Johnson will be hitting the open market in a BIG way. Though his play has yet to duplicate his 2013 form, Johnson hasn’t allowed a touchdown pass in 300 pass attempts and is one of the league’s best in limiting plays down the field. The Rams will likely pass on re-signing Johnson for the high number with quite a few marquee names on their roster threatening the market, so Johnson will likely walk. Fully expect for Johnson to have a career season in 2018.
Despite missing a couple of games, Grimes still established himself as the Bucs’ premier corner. His 33 career INT’s are 5th most amongst active NFL players. Grimes finished this season with 49 tackles, 11 passes defended and three picks, one of which he returned for a touchdown. This guy is a turnover machine, and that is an area Gruden would need to improve on tremendously in his first year back. With Tampa likely to pass on this journeyman, expect for Grimes to be a hot commodity on the open market.
I know much of Raider Nation is probably wondering what I am thinking right now, but in a year where draft talent at this position is much deeper than free agent talent, here’s why: In three seasons as a starter, Carrie has shown improvement year after year. In 2017, Carrie led the Raiders in tackles, establishing himself as the team’s best run support commodity from the secondary. That type of versatility is why Pro Football Focus graded Carrie an 89.9, ranking him 30th amongst defensive backs in the league.
He isn’t a star in this league but he is productive and will be for a long time in the right situation. While Carrie certainly isn’t a number one corner, he is a guy that can guard slots underneath and fill run lanes, who you can also get at a discounted number. Playing in one of the fastest divisions in the league when it comes to slot receivers, the Raiders can’t give up this type of skill set.
If the Raiders expect to return to 2016 form or better, these assets would be a good start come March 14. This is a team that was a single injury away from potentially reaching a Super Bowl a couple of years ago. The talent is here, and an already bright future has been made brighter by the re-acquisition of a legendary coach.