The Raiders are seemingly flush in resources to attack the roster deficiencies this offseason. With that in mind, they cannot take a shotgun approach to the offseason. Both the free agent market and the draft will present different opportunities for the organization.
Approaching both of these talent pools strategically will create the most effective and efficient outcome. In order to get the entire picture for how the Raiders should plan for their offseason, read the breakdown of the offensive positions here.
There are a couple of positions that are completely stacked in both free agency and the draft. Safety is one of them. The market dynamic really works in the Raiders’ favor. They can invest strategically in free agency and then grab a pair of safeties to develop long term. Karl Joseph showed that he is a quality player that deserves not only to be a Raider in the future, but to also lead the defensive backs week in and week out.
The question is about who to pair with him. Harris definitely had moments this last season, but his value really is as a rotational chess piece that can win certain matchups. His length and size make him a useful player to play man defense against a tight end or to help in run defense. What the Raiders need is another dynamic force that can guard one hash while Joseph guards the other.
The free agent group is lead by Landon Collins, but the Giants should have enough cap space to tag him if they want. Haha Clinton Dix was acquired by the Redskins which means they will likely tag him. Tyrann Matheiu has also expressed a significant desire to return to Houston. Also at the top are Lamarcus Joyner and Earl Thomas. Both are quality players, but they are not ideal scheme fits for the Raiders. There are several scheme fits in free agency including George Iloka, Tre Boston, Adrian Phillips, Kenny Vaccaro, Clayton Geathers, and Adrian Amos.
This is a stacked group and the draft class is equally as interesting. Players like Marvell Tell, Isaiah Simmons, Taylor Rapp, Nasir Adderly, and Will Harris are all guys who could fall to day two or three and be great additions for the long term. At the center of the issue for the Raiders is the fact the team really needs two safeties. One to start now, one to develop.
Best Approach: Both
There is no position on defense that is more convoluted than cornerback for the Raiders. The view on this really depends on how one views the play of Daryl Worley. Reportedly, the Raider coaching staff really likes Worley. If that is the case, there is little sense in making a significant offseason investment in the position. The trio of Conley, Nelson, and Worley could be a long term solution at the position.
Beyond those three there seems to be very little depth in the cornerback room. This makes turning towards the draft to solve the issue somewhat less likely if the coaching staff is looking for veterans they can count on in a pinch and on special teams. If the Raiders do not trust Nelson in the slot they can go after Bryce Callahan, but they will have to pay him top dollar and likely push Nelson to challenge Worley outside. There will be quality vets like Darqueeze Dennard, Bradley Roby, Ronald Darby, and injury prone stud Jason Verrett.
Cornerback will be similar to wide receiver regarding the draft, in that there will always be quality players it simply depends if you can identify what you prefer. In order to limit the amount of needs coming into the draft it is likely the Raiders decide to add a pair of second level veterans who can be solid fall back options for the young trio.
Best Approach: Free Agency, the 2nd Wave
Generally speaking, linebacker is a position group that is very efficient to buy in free agency. This should be a position that the Raiders attack with laser focus early on and get their man. There are not a great deal of free agent options, but both Preston Brown and CJ Mosley offer relatively young yet highly experienced targets that can lead a defense and make the calls. Pairing that guy with Whitehead in nickel packages and Marquel Lee as the strong side linebacker in base looks, the Raiders would have a talented veteran group.
This places rookie Jason Cabinda and third year player Nicholas Morrow in a reserve position where they should be. Both guys can be quality additions in certain matchups, but counting on either consistently has proven to be problematic.
Of course this position group is led by Devin White in the draft, but Paul Guenther defenses have been built on linebackers that are late draft picks or free agents. Most likely based on the track record, the Raiders will address linebacker in round three or later. If the Raiders were to address the position in both markets, that would expand the linebacker room to seven players. This is a traditional number for 43 teams and would give the Raiders an immense amount of depth in special teams as well.
Best Approach: Both
Here may be the biggest feast or famine position on the defensive side of the ball. Free agency could be an absolute money fest trying to impress Grady Jarrett and Malcom Brown. In the draft there are a pair of studs at the top of the draft in Quinnen Williams and Ed Oliver. In 2018 Maurice Hurst recorded 4 sacks and the Raiders have third year player Eddie Vanderdoes to back him up. PJ Hall showed to be a talented nose tackles and veteran Justin Ellis has two years left on his deal as the oversized run stuffer.
The depth in free agency is in second tier veteran defensive tackles that can be solid rotational pieces. Players like Suh, Richardson, Logan, Shelton, Square, and Phillips will all be in the free agent market. Adding one of these players would help solidify the group going into the draft and if one of the top end guys fall to the Raiders they can take that player and deal with the roster later.
Best Approach: Play it by ear
This is by far the biggest area of need for the Raiders considering the outrageous negative sack differential. Coming into this season there were eyes all around the league looking at this free agency group thinking we can see some huge free agent dollars being spent at a premier position. The problem for teams like the Raiders is every single team with a pass rusher of any talent has more than enough cap space to tag that player. Clowney, Lawrence, Clark, Smith, Ford, and Flowers are all in prime position to be tagged.
Even with that, there will be a handful of second tier slightly older free agents who can be a very helpful rotational pass rusher for the Raiders. Leading this group and who also is an ideal strong side defensive end for the Raiders is Ezekiel Ansah. Brandon Graham could be a guy who sits behind Arden Key at the weakside defensive end spot and be successful rushing in nickel situations. The Raiders could also consider younger rotational guys such as Brandon Copeland, Dante Fowler, Aaron Lynch, Markus Golden, Jeremiah Attachou, and Shaquil Barrett.
On the flipside, this draft class is stacked with edge talent and the Raiders are in a great position to get exactly who they want the most. In fact it would behoove the Raiders to double down on edge players. The amount of talent in the class is significant and many of them are an ideal fit for the Raiders. No matter who the Raiders sign in free agency, they will likely not get the value of the contract in production. However, in the draft the Raiders can set themselves up for long term success by building a core of three talented edge players.
Best Approach: Both but Hit the Draft HARD