The Las Vegas Raiders have many decisions to make in terms of free agency, and in this series, we take a look at the safeties whose contracts have expired.
Much like the wide receiver group for the Raiders, the defensive backfield was a revolving door of high draft picks, undrafted players, and guys signed off the street. Injuries were the primary culprit as 2019 first round pick Jonathan Abram suffered a season ending shoulder injury in Week 1 and Karl Joseph broke his foot in a Week 10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.
Free agent signing Lamarcus Joyner also missed some time with a hamstring injury and his overall play suffered as he was played out of position to fill gaps in the defense.
The only constant at the safety position was Erik Harris who put together an incredible season for a player with his limited pedigree. Harris’s three interceptions lead the team and his two defensive touchdowns were the only ones scored by the Raiders in 2019.
While Harris stood out on a bad defense it is clear that depth at the position was a major weakness for the Silver and Black and will need to be addressed this offseason.
- SS Karl Joseph
- S/CB Daryl Worley
The Raiders declined Joseph’s fifth-year option so the former West Virginia Mountaineer is set to hit the open market and the interest may be high for a player that has started to come in to his own. Worley is not technically a safety but he is a versatile enough player to line up there in addition to his natural position at corner back.
Bringing Worley back should be a priority as he made a nice starting CB tandem with rookie Trayvon Mullen who came on strong at the tail end of the season once given the opportunity. Unless the market for him is incredibly hot then we can reasonably expect Worley to be back in Silver and Black next year.
Karl Joseph is the trickier player to predict as he may command more on the open market than the Raiders are willing to pay for someone who may not be a starter. However if the price is right then he should be expected to return as well.
Just by virtue of Abram returning in 2020 the Raiders safety position will be better but there are some intriguing options on the free agent market as well. Names like Devin McCourty and Justin Simmons could draw some interest from Las Vegas and could be seen as immediate upgrades over Erik Harris and the much maligned Curtis Riley. As we have seen in 2019 it is just as vital to have talented starters as it is to have great depth at a position with such high turnover as safety.
The bottom line is that the Raiders need to make major improvements at all three levels of the defense and there are paths to do so either through the draft or free agency.