2015 NFL Free Agency Preview: Possible Scenarios for the Raiders
Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos safety Rahim Moore (26) against the Indianapolis Colts in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Colts defeated the Broncos 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Another position that the Raiders could use some help with is the safety spot. While the free safety spot appears to be in good hands for at least one more season with future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson, C-Wood is not long for the league, and at his age having a viable replacement on the roster is wise.
Also, the Raiders struggled to stay healthy at the strong safety spot last year, with Tyvon Branch and Usama Young suffering major injuries. And while Larry Asante and Brandian Ross did respectable work, it may be high time the position had an overhaul: Branch has missed significant time in two straight seasons and has struggled in the time he has played, Young and Ross are probably better fits as cover 2 safeties, and Larry Asante is not particularly strong as a cover safety.
While there may be options to fix both safety positions long-term in the draft (Landon Collins, Derron Smith, Cody Prewitt), there are some potential options in free agency that could fix the position in both the short and long term. While Reggie McKenzie is not a big free agency spender, he also has a good understanding of the importance of good safety play to the defense, and may be willing to give one or more free agent safeties a good run in this offseason.
The top name among potentially available free agent safeties is the Patriots’ Devin McCourty, who may or may not be re-signed by New England after the Super Bowl concludes. McCourty is a quality DB who has been effective in Bill Belichick’s defense, both as a cornerback and a free safety. The small but rangy McCourty has seventeen career INT’s and 299 career tackles, and his versatility and athleticism – along with lots of “Patriot Way” experience – should make him a hot commodity on the open market. Because of that, McKenzie will likely pass on him and go to the man who is probably the second-best safety in free agency.
The Pewter Plank
That man is Rahim Moore of the Denver Broncos. Moore, a four-year veteran out of UCLA, played three years as a pro with Jack Del Rio as his defensive coordinator, starting every game for which he was available under Del Rio. Despite his most famous play being a blown coverage in the 2012 playoffs that cost the Broncos the game and their season, Moore is actually a very capable free safety, with good range in deep coverage and enough size to really mix it up in the run game and against larger receivers. He is also not yet 25 (he will be next month), meaning his best years are yet to come, and he also may want to follow his defensive coordinator to Oakland rather than hang around in Denver to see what happens next after the dissolution of the entire coaching staff.
Moore, who is finishing his rookie contract in Denver, will likely want to make more money than the roughly $1.5M per year he made this year – he may even want to make more money than the $3.5M Charles Woodson made this year – but he will likely be cheaper than McCourty, and with his size and youth and familiarity with Del Rio, may also be more productive for the Raiders.
While having Moore and Woodson on the roster at the same time might be awkward at first, but the two could split time, or find themselves on the field together in certain packages. With Woodson likely retiring after 2015, Moore also has the ability to become the long-term starter at the free safety position.
Unfortunately, the free agency market is not exactly rich with strong safety talent, meaning the Raiders will have to use the draft and/or find the starter on the current roster. Tyvon Branch was expected to be the Raiders starter at the position for years to come, but he has now missed 27 games in two years. He is owed nearly $6.7M that would become dead against the cap if he is cut before the 2015 season, so the Raiders may give him another year, but it is likely that Reggie will make some move to ensure the long-term future of that position, as well.
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