As the days count down to free agency, we continue our series identifying some guys who might be targets for the Las Vegas Raiders as they attempt to patch some holes on their roster. Thus far we have identified the guys who would fill the two biggest needs on the defense: cornerbacks and linebackers, but today we shift our attention to the rest of the defense.
Neither safety nor defensive line would qualify as a ‘massive need’ in my opinion, but it doesn’t mean that either group couldn’t use an infusion of talent one way or the other. At safety, the Raiders will pencil second-year man Jonathan Abram into one spot, and if Lamarcus Joyner remains at slot corner it means they could use some reinforcements to compete with Erik Harris at the other spot.
On the defensive line, the Raiders are still trying to sort out exactly what they have. Maxx Crosby is a stud, but what will Clelin Ferrell become? Arden Key? PJ Hall and Maurice Hurst? Jonathan Hankins adds some quality in run defense, but it still seems too early to completely give up on the rest of the guys on this unit.
Initially many imagined that the Raiders might go after Chris Jones from the Kansas City Chiefs, but he was predictably locked up with the franchise tag and is no longer on the market. Likewise, Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons was a rumored target but he too is expected to return to Denver. With both of those options off the table, who else is out there for the Raiders to consider?
Devin McCourty, S
Tell me if you’ve heard this story before: Paul Guenther and Jon Gruden bring in an aging safety to offer their young defense some leadership and mentoring? Well, at least if they did that with McCourty, they’d be bringing in a guy who still has some good football left in him.
The former Patriot turns 33 this season, but PFF notes that he has been one of the 10 most valuable safeties in the league for the past two seasons. Pairing him with a young guy like Jonathan Abram could form an explosive duo at the back-end of a defense. PFF predicts he will get a 2-year, $20 million deal with $10 million guaranteed.
Verdict: I’d rather spend that kind of cash elsewhere, but if you strikeout on impact players at corner and linebacker, I’d re-consider.
Tre Boston, S
From PFF: “If there was an award for most underrated player in the NFL over the past three years, Boston would be the runaway favorite. Playing for the Chargers in 2017, Cardinals in 2018 and Panthers in 2019, Boston has produced a combined PFF coverage grade at free safety that’s the best in the NFL. He’s been responsible for only 13 catches at that alignment in that stretch while intercepting 10 and forcing 14 incompletions.”
As we noted when we talked about linebackers, the Raiders are desperate for someone who can cover tight ends and running backs. At a projected cost of 3-years, $24 million ($12 million guaranteed), the 27-year old could be a steal.
Leonard Williams, DT
I pointed this out a while ago, but when Williams was coming out of college, Mayock said he was the best defensive player in the draft — ahead of guys like Arik Armstead, Dante Fowler Jr., Vic Beasley, Marcus Peters and others.
Unfortunately, that prediction hasn’t aged well, as teams are still betting more on potential than they are production at this point. Could Mayock kick the tires on trying to find what he saw back in 2015? The problem will be projected cost: 5-years, $75 million with $43 million guaranteed. Hard pass for me.