Coming into the free agency period the Oakland Raiders have been more active than most people would have anticipated. Jon Gruden and Reggie McKenzie have brought in around 18 new faces to a team desperate for strong depth, especially in the secondary.
Justin Ellis will stay with the Raiders after signing a new deal, but big names like Denico Autry, Michael Crabtree, and T.J. Carrie have left in free agency to the Colts, Ravens, and Browns, respectively.
Amongst the players signed by the Raiders are three particular veterans that could contribute massively in the upcoming season, it’s no secret that the Bay Area franchise needed to get better on defense but the majority of free agency signings is on the opposite side of the game.
Here are the three veterans who I am expecting to make an immediate impact.
Jordy Nelson, WR
After spending his entire career with the Green Bay Packers, Jordy Nelson was released this year and is seen as Crabtree’s immediate replacement, signing a 2-year deal worth up to $14.2 million, but does the 32-year-old WR have anything left in the tank?
The answer is yes. Although Nelson’s stats last year fail to excite people, he was super productive up until Aaron Rodgers went down with an injury, which ultimately sidelined him for most of the season.
An excellent route runner with a savvy veteran brain, Nelson could be the partner Amari Cooper needs to flourish. Also known to be a good leader and dedicated player, expect big things from Jordy this season in Gruden’s new offense.
136 Games, 550 Receptions, 7848 Receiving Yards, 69 Touchdowns
Rashaan Melvin, CB
With the Raiders looking to get better in the secondary, Rashaan Melvin is a solid pick up. Signing a 1-year $6.5 million prove-it deal after a standout year for the Indianapolis Colts.
The Raiders struggled massively in coverage last year and Melvin is sure to improve that area of the game. After igniting his career in Indy last year, he earned rave reviews for shutting out Antonio Brown when the Colts played the Steelers, shadowing Brown on 88% of his routes and giving up only 42 yards.
Also in Guenther’s new defensive scheme, Melvin fits the criteria as a strong and physical man to man coverage corner. The 28-year old is likely to see a large number of snaps in the upcoming season forming a tandem with Gareon Conley.
37 Games, 138 Tackles, Three Interceptions (All in ’17), 3 FF’s, 1 FR
Tahir Whitehead, LB
Another need this offseason was a linebacker who could potentially slot into the MLB position vacated by NaVorro Bowman, who is yet to re-sign with the Raiders. Tahir Whitehead signed a 3-year deal worth up to $18 million.
An explosive tackler and former fan favorite of the Detroit Lions, his main ability is to stop the run. Although he leaves much to be desired in coverage, expect Whitehead to show grit and determination on every play.
Whitehead’s versatility along the LB positions could be an exciting tool for a new reformed defense looking to cause havoc for offenses. Mainly used recently as an OLB, he’s also adept at playing MLB, starting his career there in Detroit.
Expect Whitehead to be a day one starter to complement the younger players. Nicholas Morrow and Marquel Lee among others will lean on his veteran leadership and this could be good for their development.
93 Games, 389 Tackles, Three Sacks, Four Interceptions, 2 FF’s, 4 FR’s
There’s a change of philosophy this offseason in terms of free agency. The Raiders have brought in older players who are used to playing the schemes that the ream will run on both offense and defense.
They will add veteran leadership to the positions they play and that will surely benefit the Silver and Black this coming season.