The Las Vegas Raiders enter the offseason in need of help in the trenches, where a 21 sack season qualified as an improvement for the club. General manager Mike Mayock will certainly be looking to bolster the front four but he should be wary of a few impending free agents who will probably hit the market.
Sheldon Rankins, DT
You might’ve heard this one before, Las Vegas must upgrade their interior pass rush. If someone said the last great hit on a quarterback from a Raiders defensive tackle was Richard Seymour mushing Big Ben Rothlisberger in 2010, it would be difficult to argue with them.
The Raiders have invested early-round picks and free-agent money in the defensive line. Nevertheless, the same issues persist when the whistle blows (we miss you, Denico Autry). On paper, Sheldon Rankins checks all the boxes of what the team’s brass is looking for. As recently as 2018, the Louisville product posted eight sacks, 15 quarterback hits, and 14 tackles for loss.
However, the best ability in the NFL is availability. In the last two seasons, Rankins has missed eight games and his production (3.5 sacks, 14 quarterback hits) has left much to be desired from a pass rush standpoint. A team is certain to give the former New Orleans Saint a decent contract due to his draft pedigree and prior production, banking on the aforementioned health hiccups being a thing of the past. Pro Football Focus predicts he will get a contract in the range of two-years, $14.5 million with $8 million guaranteed. That could be a bit too rich for the blood of the Silver and Black.
Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB
Defensive end Ryan Kerrigan is a name that has been tied to Raider rumors for the past few seasons as a possible trade candidate to improve the edge rush of the defense. At his best, he was a force, posting 26 sacks from 2017 to 2018. Sadly though, we are now entering 2021. The Purdue product will be 33 years of age coming off of two straight lackluster seasons at outside linebacker and defensive end respectively (11 total sacks).
One could argue a spot as a rush specialist in one of new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s hybrid front seven looks could help salvage whatever he has left in the tank. Sadly, you should view Kerrigan’s remaining value much the same way as you view your relentless dad bod; not a fan of this outlook. Not one bit.
Mario Edwards, DL
Sorry, couldn’t help it. Let’s keep moving.
Yannick Ngakoue, DE
Yes, Yannick Ngakoue looks like the prototypical LEO for Gus Bradley’s scheme. He’s still young and has yet to finish a season with less than eight sacks. Why in the world would the Raiders avoid the Maryland product when they need players with this kind of make-up?
Pose that question to the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens. After trading a 2021 second-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars to acquire Ngakoue, the Vikings would offload the defensive end to the playoff-bound Ravens after just six games and five sacks, gaining a 2021 third-round pick in return. Even after giving up early draft capital to gain his services, the Ravens don’t appear adamant to retain Ngakoue.
In some ways, this may seem pretty logical on the part of both Minnesota and Baltimore. The ‘Vikes’ assumed they would be Super Bowl contenders this season if they could bolster their pass rush. Once the season began to head in the complete opposite direction, they shipped him off to a willing contender. ‘The Nightmare’ wasn’t exactly an ideal fit in the Ravens 3-4 scheme and his numbers suffered.
However, allowing a 25-year old pass rusher to simply walk is odd, even by the Ravens’ standard. Also, Minnesota didn’t think twice about shipping Ngakoue off so quickly. They were no longer Super Bowl bound, but quality pass rushers are hard to come by. If you don’t believe us, ask Jon Gruden.
Would Ngakoue help the Raiders? Sure, but he will likely command retail compensation in free agency. His lack of staying power with competent organizations and a skill set that is only indicative to pass-rushing. Mayock would be better off spending Mark Davis’ PF Chang’s Fund elsewhere.
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Top Photo: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post