The Oakland Raiders will be able to start talking to the agents for impending free agents starting on Monday, March 12, so before that happens, I thought it would be a good idea to pen a little piece on how I think Oakland should approach free agency in this ever so important offseason.
The Raiders have a new head coach and a roster that only a year ago was being talked about as a favorite to compete for a Super Bowl appearance. If Jon Gruden turns out to be worth the $100 million investment Mark Davis made then the Raiders could only be a couple of pieces away from being serious contenders in his first year. But how they go about adding those pieces could make a big difference in terms of immediate success.
Because of that, I am of the belief that the Raiders should have one clear goal for free agency that sits well above any other goal or desire. What is that goal? To fix the cornerback situation.
Last year, the Raiders drafted Gareon Conley with their first-round pick. Unfortunately, he barely saw the field as a rookie due to nursing injuries all year long. Next season, the team expects him to be a lockdown corner, but that might be asking a lot from a guy who will essentially be a rookie. He could have a great year in 2018 or could show that he still has some growing to get done before he’s ready to be a true number one.
And regardless of the presence of Conley, the Raiders will still need more corners. Seam Smith has a massive contract that I and many others expect the Raiders to jettison. T.J. Carrie is expected to hit free agency and if he does, could easily end up being priced out of what the Raiders want to pay for him. Thus, if Oakland chooses not to address CB in free agency, they will need to do so in the draft and that, in my opinion, would be a bad idea.
As I already noted above, the Raiders will essentially have a rookie starting at corner already with Conley. Adding one or potentially two other starters who are rookies (yes, I do consider nickel to be a starter in today’s NFL), which really isn’t ideal.
So while the Raiders could use help on their defensive line, at right tackle, in their linebacking corps and a few other places, I would be focused first and foremost on corner. Get that fixed and other positions will play better, fail to get it fixed and the defense as a whole will struggle again. Once they have corner solidified, the team can focus on adding second-tier free agents to bolster the roster then look for an impact player on the defensive line or at linebacker in the first round.
By focusing on a corner in free agency. I believe the Raiders will have the best chance at producing a dramatically improved defense when the games that count start in 2018.
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