The Las Vegas Raiders have taken their fans on a rollercoaster ride during the 2021 free agency period. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been a high-end, Six Flags-level ride but more of the County Fair variety. Much like those poorly created attractions, the exciting portions are fleeting and short-lived, the securement bar locks in but still feels faulty and when you reach the end of the ride you realize it’s being operated by someone that may not truly be qualified to handle this type of responsibility *Side-eyes Jon Gruden*.
Let’s be honest, assessing grades for free agency before a single meaningful snap has occurred is pretty asinine. However, it’s nearly impossible to look at certain moves the Raiders’ brass made and either nod in approval or vomit in utter repulsion. It’s time to separate the great from the grotesque.
Get your buckets ready, kids.
The good: Blitzing the defensive line
You don’t need to beat a dead, decaying, desecrated horse here. The Raiders haven’t had a quality pass rush since they shipped a generational talent to Chicago. If all of head Coach/Czar Jon Gruden’s snide comments about ‘good pass rushers being hard to come by, man’ equated to sacks, the team would probably finish tenth in the category since 2018. Even when general Manager Mike Mayock has taken swings to solve the issue, the results have yielded a less than desirable return.
But hey, when you have the chance to pay top coin for Carl Nassib, you just gotta do it. Even if he doesn’t get to the quarterback, he can balance the hell out of a checkbook.
Even the signings that felt like hits — Maliek “LeBron James” Collins, anyone? — failed to deliver the goods. Vegas decided to spend a bulk of their time grabbing defensive linemen as the “tampering” period kicked off, showing they wouldn’t just rely on the further development of former first-round pick Maxx Crosby or former fifth-round pick Clelin Ferrell. Admit it, that last sentence felt right, even though it was wrong.
Who did the Raiders get?
Not including returning defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and David Irving and defensive end Kendal Vickers, the Raiders signed five new faces to the trenches. The biggest fish of course is defensive end Yannick Ngakoue on a shockingly affordable deal. While it’s not a good idea to expect a large amount of overall production from the Nightmare, perhaps reuniting with former head coach and new Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will help Ngakoue to a career year. Adding Quinton Jefferson to the interior on a one-year prove-it deal was a great pickup, and former 49er bust Solomon Thomas…Is a really great person.
In all seriousness, signings such as the aforementioned Thomas and Darius Philon give the Silver and Black a level of depth within the front four I don’t ever recall seeing. Camp should breed some interesting battles. And it feels great not to rely on Arden Key’s metabolism to dictate our excitement during 3rd and long situations.