The Raiders wanted to upgrade the safety position this past offseason and they had choices. All-Pro safety Landon Collins was one of them but Oakland went for Lamarcus Joyner instead. They made the right choice.
The Raiders opened free agency with more or less $70 million at their disposal. It was quite a sum to spend on premiere contributors. They started strong by signing offensive tackle Trent Brown. Knowing they wanted a safety, they zeroed in on Joyner even though Collins was the trendiest player at his position. The former Rams cornerback/safety inked a four-year $42 million contract with Oakland while the Redskins gave the former All-Pro a six-year $84 million deal. The Raiders selected wisely and signed the better player.
It might be argued that Joyner is the lesser player of the two and he was overpaid since he has never been nominated to postseason honors such as the popularity contest known as the Pro Bowl or the more serious Associated Press awards. That would be unfair to him because there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to evaluating him.
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Joyner was always a solid contributor for Los Angeles and found a niche when Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips moved him around the secondary defensive last year. 2018 wasn’t an outlier for him though, he has always been a force on the secondary.
According to Pro Football Focus:
Joyner has forced an incompletion — by way of either close coverage, a pass breakup, or an interception — on 25.0 percent of his targets in coverage, which is the best rate among the 229 safeties with at least 50 targets since 2006.
Something else that makes Joyner’s contract even better is the way it is structured. He’s due a massive roster bonus in 2019 and he will take a big chunk of the team’s salary cap, but once the initial hit has been taken, Oakland can move on from him if he doesn’t perform at the level he’s expected to, but if he plays his money’s worth, his salary will be more than affordable the next three years.
On the other hand, Collins was voted first-year All-Pro in 2016, a long time ago in NFL years, and finished with the second most stops in the league last season. There is no reason to think there will be a drop in his play, but it’s too gargantuan a price to secure the services of a player that is great at stopping an offense’s forward progress, but not much at producing turnovers.
If for whatever reason, Collins doesn’t pan out this season or the one afterward, Washington can’t release him without taking a huge dead cap hit in the next two years. They could release him in 2021 and have $9 million in dead money, still a big amount. This mechanism makes it very difficult to cut him if his performance doesn’t match his salary.
Joyner might have fewer accolades than Collins, but he gives the Raiders not just flexibility in their secondary but in their salary cap as well.