Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler starts free agency with Jimmy Garoppolo

Dave Ziegler, Las Vegas Raiders show clear direction through free agency approach

Ah, free agency; that magical time of the year where fans eagerly wait to see which players end up on which squad, in hopes their team lands a big name or two. With dreams of Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson, Raider Nation couldn’t wait to see what Dave Ziegler and the Las Vegas Raiders would do – especially at quarterback. One Jimmy Garoppolo later, the quarterback question gets answered, along with the direction of the team as a whole.

Patience.

General manager Dave Ziegler has made it clear he has no interest in overpaying for free agents. The Raiders have a price in mind for every player they speak with, and the club won’t let the needle move much. Not only did Monday prove that, but so did Ziegler’s initial offseason with Las Vegas in 2022.

The ol’ ‘Patriots’ way’; finding “bargain” players who the team believes will outperform their contract.

Dave Ziegler, Las Vegas Raiders taking the “bargain” route through free agency

While the strategy certainly holds merit, it does indeed come with drawbacks. One such drawback was the apparent passing on first-team All-Pro Jordan Poyer, and going with the cheaper plan-B in Marcus Epps. Per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Poyer and the Raiders entered free agency with mutual interest, but nothing materialized. While the team still has the opportunity to strike a deal with Poyer, it isn’t likely; unless the money is very right for Las Vegas.

Premier free agents who fit needs such as Javon Hargrave, Tremaine Edmunds and Dalvin Tomlinson also weren’t going to happen due to their price.

On the other hand, notching a player such as Epps for $12 million over two years is good business.

Epps is a legitimate starter, and fills a major need Patrick Graham needs for his defense – utility safety. The Raiders attempted to move Tre’von Moehrig into a utility safety role in 2022, but it went miserably. Moehrig let 72.5% of passes his way be completed, logging an abysmal quarterback rating of 132.7 when targeted. Now, the TCU product gets to return to a deep-coverage role, like the one he thrived at in 2021.

This past season, Epps finished the year as Pro Football Focus‘ 10th-highest graded run defender among safeties. In 2021, he was the third-highest graded.

While Raider Nation might not be too fond of the move, Jimmy Garoppolo was a bargain, too.

New QB1 Jimmy Garoppolo comes to Las Vegas with team-friendly deal

When you run with the idea of Aaron Rodgers or Lamar Jackson as your team’s next quarterback, having to settle for Jimmy Garoppolo hits hard. Here’s the reality, though; Garoppolo’s contract is very team-friendly, helping the Raiders keep money for defensive purposes.

Over the next three years, Garoppolo is set to average $24 million annually – the 18th-highest paid average among quarterbacks. Still sound high? It shouldn’t; that figure sits atop the various rookie contracts across the NFL. Once guys such as Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence get paid, among others, fans will see exactly how cheap Garoppolo’s contract is.

Here’s even more context on what could’ve been at quarterback, financially speaking:

It may not be the expensive pair of dress shoes you want, but it’s the practical ones that get you through the day, at a discount.

Moving forward, the same approach is likely, although a high-profile scheme-fit such as Lavonte David or James Bradberry makes sense. Teams are spending money without caution, meaning the competition for higher-end players is thinning out. If Dave Ziegler plans to strike big, this is the time to do so.

The Raiders currently have $23.4 million in cap space, per OverTheCap – the eighth-most league-wide.

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