Both the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs invested big money on their defense, and now the Las Vegas Raiders should do the same in 2020.
In Jon Gruden’s second year back on the sideline, the Oakland Raiders improved from four wins in 2018 to seven in 2019. Although, they did see a three game improvement, the Raiders still have many areas to improve in order to make a considerable playoff push.
When looking around the NFL in regards to teams that made substantial improvements, one common area was landing proven free agents on the defensive side of the ball. Teams such as the San Fransisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs both brought in talent to upgrade their defensive unit and it resulted in paying large dividends — earning a trip to Super Bowl 54.
Obviously, hitting on a collective rookie class helps lay the foundation of the team’s future, but when you pair highly touted free agents to play alongside a group of promising young players, it’s a match made for success.
The 49ers brought in the talents of Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander, whereas the Chiefs brought aboard two playmakers such as Tyrann Mathieu and Frank Clark. Both defense’s showed immense improvements compared to how they showed out just one season ago and the key free agents player prominent roles in doing so.
With the Raiders offense missing just minimal pieces — most notably needing to upgrade the wide receiver position and potentially quarterback, defense should remain the focus when targeting free agent players.
Defensively, their biggest hole is linebacker and with the draft containing a small number of first round worthy linebackers, targeting one if not a couple in free agency is exactly the type of approach the Raiders must take.
Aside from linebacker, adding another edge rusher and cornerback would help elevate every level of the defense which Paul Guenther’s unit could desperately use.
Maxx Crosby showed in his rookie season that he brings legitimate pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and Clelin Ferrell started to come on during the later part of the season, but bringing in a veteran to play alongside the young defensive lineman is something the Raiders staff must contemplate.
It’s clear, Trayvon Mullen has solidified himself as one of the starting cornerbacks as the team makes the move to Las Vegas. Though, the Raiders would largely benefit from signing a free agent cornerback to stack a pair of Mullen and a proven-veteran cover guy.
The start of the new league year takes place on March 18th which also kicks off the start to the free agency period, and the Raiders currently sit with $57 million in cap space to spend.
Las Vegas appears to be an intruding destination for free agents, as the Raiders have a brand new stadium and zero percent state tax to their disposal. Some names the Raiders could look to target, which make reasonable sense for obvious reasons entail Yannick Ngakoue, Robert Quinn, Cory Littleton, Blake Martinez, Byron Jones and Trae Waynes just to name a few.