Have any of you ever heard the old, clichés saying "champions are made in the offseason"?
Well, it's a cliché for a reason.
We're six days away from the official start of free agency, and after making several moves to free up cap space, the Silver and Black will be looking to make an impact. Raider Nation is anticipating what additions the Raiders will be making on the defensive side of the ball, and rightfully so. Hopefully I was able to tackle some of those questions for you.
If any of you have further questions before free agency opens up March 17, you're all free to come find me as always @theleviedwards on Instagram and Twitter.
Alexa, play "Let's Do It Again" by The Staple Singers.
Dorian A. Oatis asks…
Will we sign an experienced veteran on defense to help develop/influence our younger talent?
This, in my opinion, is a good question and even a better strategy.
While the Raiders defense currently lacks several things, the one thing that shines out to me the most is the lack of experience and leadership. The average age of the starting defensive unit in the season opener against the Carolina Panthers last season was 25 years old. Jon Gruden's approach of building the defense with youth is necessary and has proven to work — the Raiders' Week 7 opponent and the 2020 Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting defense was the same average age of 25. The difference is the veteran leadership of players like All-Pro defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul that took their young core to the next level. This is the same caliber of players that the Silver and Black could go after this offseason to complement the young talent already in place.
The Raiders signed a couple of players in Vic Beasley and David Irving in the second half of last season in an effort to implement veteran playmakers. The Raiders must however continue to go down this road in free agency as they continue to clear up cap space. Two players could perfectly fit the combination on leadership and production would be defensive end Melvin Ingram and cornerback AJ Bouye, although it remains to be seen what the staff has up their sleeve. While Ingram and Bouye missed some action in 2020, they are both Pro Bowl caliber players with a history in the AFC West with the Chargers and the Broncos. Ingram, for instance, registered 24.5 sacks in his time with Gus Bradley as his defensive coordinator in Los Angeles.
Anthony Pedregal asks…
What is our biggest need in free agency vs. what we can supplement in the draft? I know defense is a huge need and experience is welcome but at what cost?
The biggest need that needs to be addressed in free agency is the pass rush. This is an immediate need for the Raiders that will be easier to address with proven commodities over developmental talent in the draft.
The area that can be supplemented in the draft for the Raiders may be the offensive line and the secondary. There will be a couple of promising edge rushers coming out of this year's draft in Kwity Paye and Gregory Rousseau. However, I feel that there are more NFL ready offensive linemen and cornerbacks that the Raiders can target early and go after some edge rushers in later rounds that can develop into sleeper superstars like 2019 fourth-round pick Maxx Crosby.
The Raiders have several options in players such as Richie Grant, Jaycee Horn, Patrick Surtain, Creed Humphrey and Deonte Brown that have showcased they can make a more immediate impact out of the draft. With the talents of Leonard Williams, Hassan Reddick, Yannick Ngakoue and Melvin Ingram on the market, it could be a much safer bet to sign one or two of these guys than putting all your eggs in the basket of edge rushers in the draft.
Lionel Michel Jr. asks…
What's a bigger position to address in free agency: the pass rush or the linebacker position?
Edge rushers is definitely a bigger position to address, however the Raiders have a young, hard-working linebacker that could be extremely high on their radar to re-sign.
Nicholas Morrow is now an unrestricted free agent after producing his best season as a Raider. The undrafted free agent from Greenville College played stellar football at the outside linebacker position this previous season, producing 62 solo tackles, eight tackles for loss, three sacks, a forced fumble and an interception in 14 games last season. He is also the tenth-highest ranked linebacker available in free agency this offseason by NFL.com.
While many people are clamoring over wide receiver Nelson Agholor to be re-signed, Morrow is the most important player the Raiders need to re-sign this offseason to me. Keeping the 25-year-old proven linebacker with this team is essential, especially with Gus Bradley heading the ship and potentially turning Morrow into the type of player Bobby Wagner became with the Legion of Boom Seahawks. Morrow has publicly expressed interest in returning to the Silver and Black.