The 2020 season wasn’t kind to the Las Vegas Raiders, from COVID-19 issues to injuries and defective coaching. If 2021 is to be different, they must avoid another free agency blunder.
Coming off the heels of a brilliant 2019 draft class and positive signs all around for the Raiders, the organization had a rough outing this season. The pandemic didn’t do them any favors, as it altered offseason programs, which no doubt affected their 2020 rookies. More importantly, general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden miscalculated in free agency.
Josh Dubow of the Associated Press recently highlighted these miscalculations by the Raiders brass. However, we should bring some context to this Tweet as it wasn’t all on Mayock nor Gruden.
#Raiders 5 most expensive free agent additions this offseason:
Littleton, 3 years, $35.3M, part-time LB
Nassib, 3 years, $25.3M, healthy scratch past 2 games
Kwiatkoski, 3 years, $21M, starting LB
Mariota, $7.5 million guaranteed, 0 snaps
Collins, $6M, 0 sacks, IR
— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) December 14, 2020
With Marcus Mariota, the plan was for him to be the backup to push Derek Carr to another level. Whether Carr’s 2020 success had anything to do with Mariota is debatable. While fans recently saw what Mariota can do, strictly speaking from a finical standpoint, he’s pretty much an expensive insurance policy. The question is whether Mariota will show enough this season to earn another year with the Raiders.
What about the expensive Raiders free-agent defenders?
Mariota was one thing but the heavy investment on the defense yielded no results, if anything, the unit regressed. Paul Guenther was a terrible defensive coordinator, no one can argue any different after what transpired in 2020. So while looking at Dubow’s numbers you can draw the conclusion that the team overpaid for some of those players. In particular, Maliek Collins and Carl Nassib were non-factors this season.
The conundrum facing Raiders brass is what if a good defensive coordinator can make use of these players? Cory Littleton is another example. The Silver and Black paid him more than $35 million dollars over the course of what will be three years. While the results were terrible from these players in 2020, the Raiders might be able to still salvage the damage. If a defensive guru can turn this around, the 2020 free-agent class might have a shot at redemption. Worst case scenario, the Raiders have to re-think how they approach free agency next year but also defense the priority at April’s NFL draft.
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*Top Photo: Chris Unger/Getty Images