Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos free safety Rahim Moore (26) intercepts a pass intended for Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Donte Moncrief (10) during the third quarter in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
The Raiders roster appears set at the safety position for 2015. Charles Woodson was re-signed for another year to be the starting free safety, and Tyvon Branch, still under contract for a lot of money, appears to be set to start the season as the #1 strong safety. Usama Young, an effective backup for both safety positions, will also be back, and there’s the possibility that the Raiders re-sign either Brandian Ross or Larry Asante, or both, after their capable turns as strong safeties late in the year. Last year’s seventh-round draft pick Jonathan Dowling will be back, as well.
But that said, the safety position also presents some of the biggest question marks for the Raiders. Tyvon Branch missed 27 games over the last two seasons. Young is coming back from a season-ending knee injury. Ross and Asante are both young but are somewhat limited players, and Dowling is a project who may never really pan out as a starting NFL safety. Woodson is a future Hall of Famer, but he’s also 38 years old and there’s no clear cut backup for him, nor is there a clear-cut future at that position. The draft class is short on safety talent. Free agency may be the answer:
Rahim Moore: I’ve mentioned Moore’s name numerous times as a fit for the Raiders at safety. Moore, an LA native and UCLA product, has been Jack Del Rio’s starting free safety for most of the past three years, and started at the spot as a rookie in 2011, as well. Moore just turned 25, and his best years are probably in front of him. With Jack Del Rio now in Oakland and the Broncos starting to shed talent, Moore may join players like Terrance Knighton, Orlando Franklin, Julius Thomas and Nate Irving and look for greener grass elsewhere. That elsewhere could be Oakland, where Moore could be used as a situational third safety in 2015 and eventually take over for Woodson long term.
The Pewter Plank
Isa Abdul-Quddus: the former Saint, now approaching the end of his deal with the Detroit Lions, is a player used to a situational role as a safety. Possessing good speed and cover skills but limited as a run defender, he’d be a quality backup for Woodson and can come in and make a difference as a role-player. He’s still young – he’ll turn 26 in August – and could develop into a quality starter in the long run, but if he does hit the market he’ll be inexpensive and can provide good value right away.
Marcus Gilchrist: Marcus Gilchrist is a former college cornerback turned safety who has been the starting strong safety of the Chargers for the past two seasons. Entering his fifth year as a pro, Gilchrist combines great physical tools with a high football IQ, allowing him to be effective at the position despite having less than ideal size. Gilchrist is a versatile defensive back who has been used as a nickel corner, though he is normally a Cover 2 strong safety for San Diego. Like Moore, he could be a long-term starting solution behind Woodson, but also could be a potential replacement for Branch, though his size would prevent him from spending a lot of time playing in the box in a cover 3 or single-high scheme.
Next: FA Watch List: Cornerback