While the Las Vegas Raiders’ defense made some major improvements during the 2021 season, cornerback and overall secondary play remained an issue. The Raiders’ top corner was Casey Hayward, and he had a solid season but is likely to play elsewhere in 2022. Corner depth was a problem for Las Vegas, with injury trouble causing the team to look far down its depth chart.
With this week’s news that the Denver Broncos will have Russell Wilson at quarterback in 2022, the secondary has become even more of a priority for the Raiders, who now have six games against Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, and Justin Herbert on their slate. Here are a few free-agent corners the Raiders may look to add for the upcoming seasons.
Which of the following cornerbacks should the Raiders pursue?
No. 1 J.C. Jackson
Over the last four seasons in New England, Jackson has developed into a true shutdown corner and one of the best defenders in the AFC. He has excellent size and speed at six-foot-one and 198 pounds and runs a 4.46. Jackson had eight interceptions in the 2021 season, second in the NFL in that stat behind Trevon Diggs. Jackson is only 26 years old, and his best seasons may yet be ahead of him. The new Raiders brain trust will be well aware of Jackson’s abilities and could make him a top priority when free agency opens.
No. 2 DJ Reed
Reed was drafted out of Kansas State in 2018 by the 49ers, but they waived him in the 2020 offseason after he suffered a torn pectoral muscle. Reed stands at five-foot-nine, a far cry from the massive and lanky corners the Seahawks usually favor, but over the last two seasons, Reed has established himself as Seattle’s top cover corner. While Seattle’s pass defense left something to be desired in 2021, they were a much better unit with Reed on the field. Seattle will seek to bring Reed back in 2022, but if they can’t meet his demands, he may look to land elsewhere. The Raiders could surely use a tenacious press man corner like Reed.
No. 3 Stephon Gilmore
For the last decade, Stephon Gilmore has made his mark as one of the top corners in the NFL. Drafted by Buffalo in 2012 out of South Carolina, Gilmore developed into arguably the best cornerback in the league and carried those skills on to New England and then Carolina. Though he’s no longer tops at his position, Gilmore is still a highly capable corner with a nose for the ball, and his wealth of experience would be a boon to a young secondary. Gilmore’s defensive pass game coordinator in Carolina in 2021, Jason Simmons, is now the Raiders’ secondary coach, so Gilmore would likely be quite comfortable in the Silver and Black’s new defensive schemes.
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