Though the Oakland Raiders won’t have a ton of cash in free agency, we should expect them to bolster their defensive back field. Here are five targets.
A major reason that the Oakland Raiders weren’t really all that good in 2017 was horrendous play by the secondary. Defensive backs were constantly out of position under former defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.’s watch. By the time John Pagano was running the defense, the secondary had succumbed to too many injuries to be anything better than mediocre.
Oakland had other issues, but giving up the big play in the passing game was definitely the perpetual eye sore on a lost 2017 NFL season. While many in Raider Nation expect the Raiders to address this position group in the upcoming draft, that may not be where general manager Reggie McKenzie‘s head is at. He has gone with defensive backs a ton in the last few drafts, including selecting Karl Joseph, Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu.
Sure, the Raiders could absolutely go after a cornerback or safety in the first three rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft with one of their three top-100 picks. However, the team may be better off targeting a guy in free agency. Getting a more polished and proven commodity of a guy heading into a second or third contract could be a huge plus for this team on Paul Guenther’s defense.
Should Oakland upgrade the defensive backfield in free agency? Absolutely, but keep in mind that the Raiders only have a little over $24 million to work with against the cap in 2018. Surely, they can open up some more space, but there is no reason to grossly over pay for a Trumaine Johnson or a Richard Sherman on the open market. There are plenty of solid defensive backs that could make this defense better. Here are five that could work in Oakland in 2018.
One player that could be a sneaky, under-the-radar signing for the Raiders might be Chicago Bears free agent cornerback Kyle Fuller. Chicago took Fuller No. 14 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft out of Virginia Tech. Though he has had a successful career early on in Chicago, do keep in mind that he missed all of the 2016 NFL season due to injury.
Fuller comes from a big football family, as three of his brothers have played in the NFL. Chicago may be reluctant to let Fuller walk in free agency, but that really all depends on who is running the defense for the Bears in 2018. If it is Vic Fangio again, then Chicago might be willing to pay to keep Fuller.
That being said, Fangio is known for his ability to develop defense talent. Chicago may go with more of an offensive-minded draft to better support young franchise quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Fuller could get lost in the shuffle and sign elsewhere for slightly more than the Bears would be offering.
Oakland has not had an elite cornerback since Nnamdi Asomugha. Not to say that Fuller will get to that level in his career, but there seems to be some untapped potential that maybe Paul Guenther can get out of him should he sign with the Raiders. Even if Oakland has to overpay, Fuller won’t be one of the highest paid defensive backs in free agency anyway.