This year, the Las Vegas Raiders invested whatever cap space they had in free agency and even though nobody has taken the field yet, their talent improvement is evident.
The Raiders main free agency acquisitions were on the defensive side of the ball, linebackers Nick Kwiatkoski, Cory Littleton and defensive end Carl Nassib and defensive tackle Maliek Collins. The first two will finally stabilize the position while the latter will become key integral parts of the defensive line.
There were a couple of meaningful signings on offense as well, backup quarterback Marcus Mariota and tight end Jason Witten. However, their defensive counterparts will have more of a long-term impact.
In a conversation with The Athletic, salary cap and contract expert Jason Fitzgerald of OvertheCap.com talked positively about the most important moves the Raiders have made so far.
Regarding the transactions on defense, Fitzgerald says, that, they “were all reasonable. The Raiders still need help at corner, but they are well-positioned to make a big jump from their No. 31 defensive ranking from a year ago.”
Putting money aside, Collins might not be a household name, but he showed last year he can pressure the quarterback.
How about this one … Maliek Collins’ 21 pressures last season per @Sportradar are more than any #Raiders interior defensive lineman has in last 4 seasons combined. Mo Hurst has 19 in 2 seasons https://t.co/FlqW9EoowJ— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) April 8, 2020
Meanwhile, Nassib may have already plateaued, but he will be a key cog in the Raiders defensive line rotation and will help spell Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell.
However, Littleton and Kwiatkoski will likely have the most impact. After trying short-term fixes at linebacker, the Raiders finally decided to spend heavily on the position.
Signing Cory Littleton at ~$12M APY is a solid move for the Raiders.— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) March 17, 2020
– Littleton now ranks 8th in APY among off-ball linebackers
– Only Lavonte David has earned a higher @PFF coverage grade than Littleton over the past two seasons
Littleton + Kwiatkowski for Las Vegas 📈
Based on past production, paying Littleton $12 million isn’t prohibitive and helped allocate funds to Kwiatkoski, who isn’t a chump himself.
Per his own twitter account LB Nick Kwiatkoski is signing with the Las Vegas Raiders— PFF (@PFF) March 16, 2020
Kwiatkoski: 15th highest graded LB in 2019 pic.twitter.com/08yD443Qo9
When it came to Mariota’s deal, Fitzgerald had a positive tone as well as he mentioned “There are a lot of incentives in the contract, but that’s pretty commonplace for most quarterbacks. So if he does go in there and starts, there’s an ability for him to earn a lot of money. But if he’s successful, they’re not gonna care because it still would come in under a Tannehill deal or something like that. So I think that’s a terrific deal for them. …It’s under $9 million a year in base value.”
The Raiders entered free agency with a plan in mind. They executed it and came out with players that will have an impact in the 2020 season. All in all, it was money well invested.
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