HENDERSON, Nev. — The Las Vegas Raiders have 88 players on their 90-man offseason roster, and while they drafted two offensive linemen, two defensive linemen and a pair of running backs, they still have needs as they enter the final stretch of their offseason program.
Particularly at right tackle and in the secondary.
Consider: While Las Vegas currently has just more than $6 million in salary-cap space, per ESPN Stats & Information — only five teams have less — relief is coming next week. Because with the June 1 designations applied to the March 16 releases of defensive end Carl Nassib and linebacker Cory Littleton, the Raiders will be getting an additional $19.8 million in salary cap space. As a measuring stick, only four teams had more than $20 million in total cap space entering this week.
So with cap space and needs coming to a head, what will the Raiders, under new management with general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels, do? What should they do?
Keep in mind, the Raiders have already doled out some major money this offseason, the $233.565-plus million in cash spent accounted for the 11th most in the NFL.
A few potential options for Las Vegas to chew on, then, with organized team activities continuing this month and a three-day mandatory minicamp scheduled for June 7-9.
Another defensive tackle, are you Suh, uh, sure?
Hear me out here. Sure, the Raiders already have 27 defensive tackles on the roster (the actual number is eight, but it feels like more), having signed Bilal Nichols in free agency, re-signed Johnathan Hankins and drafted Neil Farrell Jr. and Matthew Butler, among other moves. But coach Josh McDaniels has said he likes to make a strength, well, stronger. Imagine, then, perennial bad boy Ndamukong Suh suiting up for the erstwhile bad boys of the NFL.
Sure, Suh is 35 and the five-time Pro Bowler’s best days are behind him, but he has not missed a game since 2011 and has missed only two in his career. Suh had six sacks in each of his past two seasons, with 32 combined QB hits. Teaming him with Nichols, who has eight sacks combined the past two season, to collapse the pocket from the interior would free up defensive ends Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones.
More depth for the secondary
Las Vegas did acquire Rock Ya-Sin in a trade with the Indianapolis Colts for edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue, but presumptive starter Trayvon Mullen Jr., who battled a toe injury and played in only five games last season, is coming off an undisclosed surgery on one of his feet. And while Nate Hobbs and Tre’von Moehrig solidified their spots in the slot and at free safety, respectively, strong safety Johnathan Abram did not have his fifth-year option picked up by the Raiders. Yet, the Raiders did nothing to acquire his replacement, either.
Kevin King — a second-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2017, who has seven interceptions in 51 career games, 42 starts — is still on the market. He also played safety in college, and versatility is key in new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s scheme. And if you want to go deep with a vet, Richard Sherman is still out there, and perhaps a transition to safety is in his future.
What about the second line of defense?
Let’s see, Las Vegas has a Pro Bowler in middle linebacker Denzel Perryman, a rising cover linebacker in Divine Deablo and a guy who knows Graham’s scheme in Kyler Fackrell. Other than that, a lot of roster filler-type guys.
If the Raiders decide to kick the tires on a vet, or two, they could do worse than Anthony Barr, who started 98 games over the past eight seasons for the Minnesota Vikings and went to four Pro Bowls, and Dont’a Hightower, who spent the past nine years with the Patriots. I’ve mentioned Hightower as a potential pickup for the Raiders before but wondered if, at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Hightower might not be sleek enough for Graham’s more multiple defense.
Who’s playing right tackle?
One scenario could see last year’s first-round pick, Alex Leatherwood, kicking back out to play the position he was drafted to play before he was moved inside to right guard after four games. Another sees Brandon Parker, who started 12 games at right tackle as a rookie in 2018 and replaced Leatherwood last season on the outside, getting an extended look after signing a one-year, $3.5 million contract this spring.
Derek Carr was sacked 40 times last season, the second most of his career. Two veteran right tackles are out there in Riley Reiff, who started 12 games for the AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals before going down with an ankle injury and missing the playoffs and Super Bowl, and Daryl Williams, who started 33 of 33 games the past two years for the Buffalo Bills.
Taking care of their own
McDaniels could enter training camp with the roster as is. And that could mean extensions for guys already under contract, after already taking care of Crosby and Carr.
In fact, Carr said he wanted his deal to be friendly enough for the team to take care of Pro Bowl slot receiver Hunter Renfrow and tight end Foster Moreau. Carr later mentioned tight end Darren Waller.
Renfrow, whose 103 catches last season were the second most in franchise history by a receiver, seems to be first in line for an extension after being a fifth-round find by the Raiders in 2019. Waller, meanwhile, hired a new agency at the start of last season in Klutch Sports, and while he is one of the top tight ends in the NFL, he suffered through an injury-plagued season that cost him six games. His catch total dropped from a franchise-record 107 in 2020 to 55 and, with the addition of Davante Adams on the outside and Carr’s trust in Renfrow in the slot, you have to wonder how it will affect Waller’s production and projected value to the new regime.