Last season the Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders looked to be as stable at cornerback as they had been in years — with an established guy like Daryl Worley and a second-round pick in Trayvon Mullen, as well as some solid depth. Unfortunately, the overall play of this group — fairly or not — was pretty disappointing.
In 2019 the Raiders ranked 29th in the league with just nine interceptions while allowing the eighth-most passing yards per game (256.7 yards/game). Even if you account for average defensive line play, abysmal linebacker play and injury-hampered safety play there’s still no real excuse for those kinds of numbers.
And so? The Raiders are looking to go shopping. Mullen will be back and is expected to be one of the team’s top two corners — and it seems like they like their depth with second-year corners Isaiah Johnson and Keisean Nixon, as well as the newly re-signed Nevin Lawson among others. But what they still lack is a true No. 1 guy to pair with Mullen.
Of course, the draft is always an option to look at, but most experts don’t see a ton of high-end talent this year — not to mention the Raiders’ abundance of needs elsewhere. This leaves us with free agency and the following few guys to keep an eye on…
At just 27-years-old, Jones is believed by many to be the best cornerback option on the market. The former first-round pick was a pro bowler in 2018, but because of cap space issues, the Cowboys are letting him walk. So what might he cost? PFF actually predicts the Raiders will sign him to a 5-year, $80 million deal with $50 million guaranteed. Here’s what they say about Jones:
“After bouncing around at various alignments in the secondary for three years, Jones found his home at outside corner in 2018 and has since been one of the five best in the NFL. In that role, he’s been a shutdown corner in press-man coverage — he allowed just 0.39 yards per coverage snap on those reps in 2019, the second-lowest figure at the position and over eight-tenths of a yard lower than the average. Daryl Worley was dead last in that stat, in case you were wondering.”
Verdict: I’d make this position a priority, and with Jones being the best guy on the market, I’d send some Trent Brown cash his way. Corners seem to be one of the more challenging positions to draft given the difference in schemes and talent in the NFL, and so why not go get a guy who is young and one of the best guys in the game? (Not to mention he has familiarity with Rod Marinelli, who has been with Jones in Dallas for the past few years). Sign him up.
Chris Harris Jr.
Harris has been the guy most linked to the Raiders of late, which makes sense considering he’s the guy they are most familiar with having played his whole career in Denver up until this point. Harris is an interesting guy to watch because I’m not sure I totally see the fit. He’s 30-years-old (which is good from a cost perspective), but my biggest concern is where he would play.
In 2018, Harris was one of the league’s premier slot corners. In 2019, he was asked to move outside and he had the worst season of his career. In Vegas, if reports are accurate that the Raiders view Lamarcus Joyner as a slot corner and not a safety, then I fail to see the sense in signing Harris. He’s best as a slot corner and you’ve already got an expensive one of those — so why bother?
If you want to avoid the top of the market, Waynes would be an interesting guy to kick the tires on. PFF projects Waynes to sign a one-year, $7.5 million deal this offseason — which sounds about right for a former first-round pick who has been a disappointment in Minnesota thus far. Then again, if you like the depth you have already, do you really think of Waynes as a noticeable upgrade? Probably not.
The last option here would be to re-sign Worley once he has tested free agency. Worley wasn’t great last season, but I didn’t think he was terrible either (although maybe PFF’s stats would correct me on that). He’d probably be affordable and would at least give you a competent corner you could trust. The Raiders’ defensive backfield wouldn’t become elite, but maybe if you can build up the defense elsewhere they could do their best to hold their own.