Grading the Raiders first big signings of free agency this year

It's been an active day in Las Vegas.

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins
Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins / Megan Briggs/GettyImages
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It's been an active Day 1 of free agency for the Las Vegas Raiders, to say the least.

Whether it's been the big name additions they've made, or some of the longtime Raiders who have now officially left for other cities, very few teams have stayed in the center of free agency discussions through the opening hours quite like the Raiders.

The big news, of course, is that Las Vegas managed to sign one of the premier defensive tackles in football, Miami's Christian Wilkins. It was exactly the type of move that many expected from the Raiders, not only from a schematic need, but just from a 'we-need-premier-players-now' need. And what better way to distract from the departure of Josh Jacobs than to bring in Wilkins, who was realistically the 2nd-best defensive lineman on the market (and you could argue he was the best who was actually available, given that Chris Jones' return to Kansas City always felt inevitable).

But as the initial wave of free agent signings slows down a bit, here's how the first day went for the Raiders.


Christian Wilkins, DL, Miami Dolphins

Deal: 4-year, $110 million ($84.75 million guaranteed)
Grade:
A-

While it's true that Wilkins picked a hell of a year to put up a career best nine sacks, he's been improving every season since his rookie campaign in 2019.

He's also been incredibly durable, playing in all 17 games for each of the last three years, and never missing more than three games in any given season. The Raiders' defensive front was a mess last year, and Wilkins helps in more ways than one: now Maxx Crosby won't get 100% of the offensive line's attention, and the two of them give young edge rusher Tyree Wilson more time to develop, which seems like something that may take a bit longer than expected.

There's always a bit of skepticism when it comes to nine-figure free agent deals, but Wilkins is only 28 and doesn't miss games, and is a perfect fit for the Raiders' culture – as far as dice rolls go, this one makes sense.

Andre James, C, Las Vegas Raiders

Grade: B+

James' returning to the Raiders always felt more like a 'when' than an 'if.' In almost 1,000 snaps last year, the Raiders' center only committed two penalties and had a pass-block win rate over 95%. He has consistently gotten better every single year, and injuries – so far, at least – haven't been a major concern.

The Raiders' offensive line was a quietly decent group last year, and James ended the season ranked by Pro Football Focus as the 9th best center in football. There's still work to be done in that unit – to start, drafting one of this year's best guard prospects wouldn't be the worst idea – but as far as continuity goes, the Raiders are starting to build some.

It's not the flashiest move, but Tom Telesco and Antonio Pierce deserve credit for handling their business here.

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Las Vegas Raiders

Grade: B-

The Raiders announced this signing on their own, though the official terms of the new deal still aren't public.

It's a good depth move for Las Vegas, who will still need to find someone to pair Abdullah with if they want to replace Josh Jacobs' production by committee.

Abdullah's appeared in all 34 games during his tenure with the Raiders, and contributes a bunch on special teams as well. When you hand out $100+ million contracts, most everything else will be smaller moves like this, but that doesn't make them any less important. Abdullah is a versatile player that fills a specific role on the team, and not having to worry about finding a replacement for those snaps is probably worth whatever money they gave him.

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