Will the Las Vegas Raiders end up regretting releasing their best safety from last season in veteran Jeff Heath?
In a move that possibly surprised some, the Silver and Black decided to part ways with Heath. A special teams’ standout with the Dallas Cowboys, the Saginaw Valley State product played 13 games last year. One of the many heroes in the team’s upset victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, he posted solid numbers. He totaled three interceptions, four passes defended, and 28 solo tackles. In a year where opponents demolished the pass defense, Heath did his best when targeted. He surrendered 12 completions off of 19 targets and gave up one touchdown in coverage.
According to Pro Football Focus, Heath had a solid showing playing free safety last year. He posted a 72.8 overall grade with a solid 65.8 run defense grade and 72.8 in the coverage department. Nevertheless, it appears that Las Vegas opted to go a different route for this season.
What might’ve led to Heath’s release from the Raiders?
The recent infusion of rookies to the team probably signaled that the Raiders were completely rebuilding their defense. It appears Johnathan Abram might be the only remnant from last year’s squad. Karl Joseph also returned to Las Vegas in free agency. With speedy, and more importantly, versatile youngsters such as Tyree Gillespie and Divine Deablo joining the team, the writing was on the wall.
On a side note, it’s worth noting that Heath was set to make $3.15 million this year per Spotrac, so money surely played a role. By bringing in veteran cornerback Casey Hayward, it might’ve been a simple case of pick and choose. However, it surely must’ve been disappointing news for Heath considering that general manager Mike Mayock publicly vouched for the safety recently. As for the Raiders, the show goes on as Gus Bradley is slowly getting enough pieces to assemble a solid unit.
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*Top Photo: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal