Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock recently had a conference call on several topics. One subject he touched on was the addition of key free agents.
2019 was not kind to the Raiders defense, growing pains if you will. An infusion of talent will definitely help to elevate this unit, not to mention it could be a make or break year for defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Free agents aside, the Raiders hiring Rod Marinelli to coach the defensive line also adds another layer to this defense. Some in Raider Nation are already predicting he’ll take over the defense completely if Guenther can’t deliver out of the gate.
New Blood Rising
Last year, the Raiders saw an impressive group of newcomers such as Trayvon Mullen, Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell, and Johnathan Abram take the field. Add these youngsters, who showed long-term potential, to the current free-agent class and the results could be exciting. Mayock spoke on how he approached NFL free agency and the defense in particular.
“I think what we’ve been able to do is spread around the money a little bit in free agency, to plug some holes, especially on the defensive side on the ball that needed to be plugged and we’ve done with boys that are both young and have a consistent amount of playing ability and a lot of them have been starters.”
Reading between the lines, Mayock did something that the previous two Raiders administrations couldn’t do. And that was bringing in free agents who are instant starters in their prime without overpaying. Mayock proved once again why he should be held in high regard among NFL executives.
Raiders Finally Address Linebacker
Most of Raider Nation will unanimously tell you that linebacker has been a need for years. Mayock took care of that in free agency and maybe he isn’t done yet with the draft approaching. In regards to free agency, he elaborated on this as well.
“You talk about the linebackers, Cory Littleton covers as well as anyone in the league. We feel like Kwiatkowski will wear the green dot and fit in seamlessly with what we do.”
Amazing when you picture how different the Raiders defense already looks on paper. The Silver and Black has now a linebacker that can be an asset in coverage with Littleton, and they have their leader in Kwiatkowski. The defensive line was also fortified with key additions, one in particular that has history with Marinelli while the other is a clone of two of his draft picks.
“Carl Nassib plays just like Ferrell and Crosby. He’s 6’6, 275. We’ll get off the bus with three long powerful tough defensive ends. He’ll fit right in. And Maliek Collins, you know Rob [Marinelly] obviously coached him last year and Rob jumped off on the table and support of what this kid can be.”
Shoring Up And Adding Depth
Mayock then elaborated on the additions to the defensive backfield.
“In the back end, we get Jeff Heath, who’s started an awful lot of football games for the Cowboys. Damarious Randall, who when he came out of Arizona State, I thought he was the number one free safety in that draft. Again, we have another young player in Randall. We got Heath with experience. I think what it does, it allows us to go into the draft from the defensive side and just kind of say, ok, where is the best football player, let’s go get it.”
Both the Damarious Randall and Jeff Heath signings came in the later wave of free agency and while not necessarily “sexy signings,” the Raiders added quality depth. With Randall, you have an instant starter at free safety to join Abram in the backfield. Then we have Heath who will see plenty of playing time and will surely have an impact on special teams.
The important note from Mayock here is that by adding this caliber of talent, he has the flexibility to truly draft the best player available, the draft can’t get here soon enough.
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*cover graphic by raidernat10nedits on Instagram