Cornerback was a huge area of need for the Las Vegas Raiders heading into this offseason, but did they do enough to address the need?
The Las Vegas Raiders added two dynamic playmakers at cornerback in the 2020 NFL Draft by drafting Damon Arnette and Amik Robertson, adding to a young and hungry corp of players. The first round has not been kind to the Raiders in recent memory in terms of the cornerback position, but in Arnette, they may have found their best selection since Nnamdi Asomugha in the first round of the 2003 draft.
Through free agency, Mike Mayock took his time to address the team’s biggest needs with a complete overhaul of the linebacker room, adding talent on the defensive line, and bolstering the secondary. Safety was addressed in free agency, but cornerback was not, as the only deal they could muster, a deal with Eli Apple, fell through.
When asked about the corner position and the players on the current roster on a pre-draft call with the media, Mayock said “we feel like we got a bunch of talented young kids that we don’t know enough about yet.” He then went on to deliver praise to returning starter Trayvon Mullen and building excitement around second year players Keisean Nixon and Isaiah Johnson.
On a team that has typically tried to bandage the corner position with players that were castoffs from other teams, or big free agent signings who didn’t pan out, the Raiders are now changing the culture by building through the draft with young, fast, and coachable players.
The biggest question surrounding the corner position in 2020 is with the shortened offseason, and inability for teams to practice together due to Covid-19, how will these young players get time to gel in this defense together?
This is where it makes sense for the Raiders to continue to add via free agency, for not only talent or depth, but as a contingency plan if Damon Arnette isn’t ready to make the leap into a starting role just yet. In addition, a veteran corner who has had some success in the league could serve as a coach and mentor to these young players.
A few players come to mind when evaluating talent and the defensive needs of the team are Logan Ryan, Aqib Talib and Dre Kirkpatrick. Ryan publicly announced via Twitter that his time in Tennessee is done, and he is still a young corner who has played well. He could come in and compete for the starting position, but the price may be too high for his services.
Both Talib and Kirkpatrick have history with the coaching staff, as Kirkpatrick played under defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, and Talib was drafted by Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay. Both players bring veteran leadership and knowledge, and they both have something left in the tank. If the Raiders are to make a veteran move at corner, that would be the direction they would most likely lean to.
As the offseason progresses, and the next wave of free agents begin to sign with teams to provide additional bodies for camp, it would be obtuse to rule the Raiders out of the running of adding another veteran corner to the team. There is not a ton of experience on this team, and with the amount of pressure that must be on Guenther’s shoulders to succeed, it would be wise to add a contingency plan as a safety net.