With the new league year rapidly approaching, free agency is about to be the hottest topic in the NFL. While the Las Vegas Raiders appear ready to make moves, let’s revisit the best of 2021.
What were the best signings for the Raiders last offseason?
Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE
The Raiders’ big-ticket free agent signing of 2021, Ngakoue, put together a solid first season in the silver and black. He finished the 2020 season with eight sacks after playing for both the Minnesota Vikings and the Baltimore Ravens. This earned him a two-year, $26 million contract with the Raiders. Many wondered how much of an impact he could make on his third team in two seasons.
Regardless of what anyone else thought, it was clear that Ngakoue believed in himself when he crowned the combination of him and Maxx Crosby as “the best pass-rushing duo in the league.” When the season started, it was clear that he wasn’t very far off. In week one, he helped the Las Vegas defense apply unending pressure to star quarterback Lamar Jackson in a statement win. Four weeks later, he would turn in a two-sack game against Chicago.
Although his impact certainly faded down the stretch, he would finish the season with ten sacks. Heading into a contract year in 2022, expect a big season from “91” as he looks to earn another payday.
Soloman Thomas, IDL
Another member of the Raiders’ retooled defensive line, Thomas, had worn out his welcome in San Francisco. He was drafted third overall in 2017, but he never developed into the star player they expected. As such, when the Raiders signed him to a one-year deal, very little was made of it.
Thomas turned in a career year inside, however, as he finished with a career high sack total of 3.5. He also notched two forced fumbles. While the counting stats are hardly jaw-dropping, his impact was felt often. For a player many had written off entirely, he earned himself some money in 2021. With a new coaching staff in tow for 2022, Thomas may have to find that money elsewhere. However, Raider Nation should hope they get him back.
Casey Hayward, CB
A late addition to the Raiders, as he was added after the draft, Hayward was the Raiders’ best free-agent addition in 2021. After three years with Gus Bradley and the Los Angeles Chargers, Hayward signed a one-year pact with the Raiders.
All Hayward did in 2021 was lock receivers up. Although he only had one interception, that was often due to a lack of targets. Turning in perhaps the best season a Raiders corner has had in many years, he got a 76.0 overall grade from Pro Football Focus. As mentioned, Hayward signed a one-year contract, so he will be a free agent again in 2022. It is likely that he will follow Bradley to Indianapolis, so Raiders fans will just have to hope he likes playing in Vegas. At 32 years old, it’s buyer beware.
*Top Photo: Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal