Veteran Free-Agent Contracts Raiders Must Consider Before Training Camp

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent IJune 27, 2022

Veteran Free-Agent Contracts Raiders Must Consider Before Training Camp

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    The Las Vegas Raiders have already made two high-profile moves this offseason, trading for wideout Davante Adams and signing pass-rusher Chandler Jones. And there's a chance they add another superstar in defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh.

    The 35-year-old hinted at having an interest in the Raiders, stating they "could be fun" on Twitter. The Raiders, however, are not "currently in pursuit" of him, according to Josina Anderson of CBS Sports HQ

    This shouldn't be viewed as a major surprise. The Raiders have $20.2 million in cap space available, but signing Suh could eat nearly half of that. The five-time Pro Bowler played on a series of one-year deals worth between $8-9.3 million with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the past three seasons.

    As Anderson noted, the market "will continue to crystalize" for Suh, and Las Vegas should be content to let it play out rather than chasing him on the open market. If he ultimately lands with the Raiders on a deal that makes sense for the team, great.

    There are other free agents to consider in the meantime, and we'll dive into some of those players here. Below you'll find three available veterans Las Vegas should consider before the start of training camp. We'll examine how each of these players could fill a need and dive into contract projections based on factors like past performance, positional value, age and player health.

DT Danny Shelton

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    While the Raiders are weighing the idea of adding Suh, they should kick the tires on defensive tackle Danny Shelton.

    Suh would make sense for Las Vegas because he could bolster a run defense that ranked 19th in yards allowed last season and help generate interior pressure between Chandler Jones and fellow edge-rusher Maxx Crosby.

    Shelton, who has just six career sacks, wouldn't aid in both areas, but he's a stout space-eater and run-stuffer who could bring a ton of experience to the defense. He spent two seasons with head coach Josh McDaniels for the New England Patriots and played under defensive coordinator Patrick Graham with the New York Giants last year.

    Last season in New York, the 28-year-old played just 29 percent of the defensive snaps but still logged 31 tackles and 12 solo stops. Not only could he provide valuable depth on the defensive line, but he would also have a low learning curve in Graham's scheme.

    The Washington product is the perfect budget-friendly depth addition for Las Vegas to consider, both because of his scheme fit and likely price point. He played on a one-year, $1.1 million deal last season and would likely command a similar contract this season.

    This is the sort of contract Las Vegas could absorb while still leaving the door open for a player like Suh.

OT Bryan Bulaga

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    Last week, we examined Las Vegas' biggest remaining weaknesses heading into training camp. Unsurprisingly, the team's offensive line made the list. Last season, the Raiders line surrendered 40 sacks and paved the way for a rushing attack that ranked 27th in the league.

    The biggest question mark on the Raiders' line is on the right side. 2021 first-round pick Alex Leatherwood was a disappointment as a rookie—he was moved to guard and was responsible for 14 penalties and eight sacks allowed in 2021, according to Pro Football Focus—while right guard Denzelle Good suffered a torn ACL in Week 1.

    Good and Leatherwood appear poised to be back at their natural positions of guard and tackle, respectively.

    "For all this moving around Raiders coaches keep saying they’re doing with Alex Leatherwood, he’s once again planted at right tackle," Levi Damien of USA Today wrote in early June.

    Given how poorly Leatherwood played as a rookie, it would behoove Las Vegas to add some veteran tackle depth. Taking a flier on former Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Chargers lineman Bryan Bulaga would make a ton of sense.

    Back and groin injuries have limited the 33-year-old to just 11 games over the last two seasons with Los Angeles. But he's been a reliable starter when healthy and carries two years of AFC West familiarity—though he didn't play much in 2021, he likely watched plenty of film on opposing pass-rushers such as Frank Clark and Bradley Chubb.

    Coming off an injury-plagued season, Bulaga should be willing to accept a team-friendly "prove-it" deal as well. His contract with the Chargers was worth $10 million annually, The Raiders could probably offer half of that and lock him up as a potential starter or swing tackle.

CB Joe Haden

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    Another issue Las Vegas should be eager to address is its lack of quality cornerback depth.

    This offseason, the Raiders traded for Indianapolis Colts cornerback Rock Ya-Sin. He should join Treyvon Mullen Jr. on the perimeter with nickelback Nate Hobbs in the starting lineup. Depth behind these three is questionable, though, and a potential problem given Mullen's recent injury history and lack of consistency.

    The 2019 second-round pick missed games with foot and toe injuries last season and gave up five touchdowns the previous season.

    The Raiders parted with dependable starter Cameron Hayward this offseason and brought in Anthony Averett from the Baltimore Ravens. While he had a strong campaign with the Baltimore Ravens, he hasn't been consistent as a pro. In 2020, he allowed an opposing quarterback rating of 105.6 in coverage.

    Three-time Pro Bowler Joe Haden could step in and provide the veteran depth Las Vegas needs. While he is on the older side at 33, he is still a solid starter when healthy. He was hampered by a foot injury last season but allowed an opposing quarterback rating of only 75.9 in 2020.

    Haden earned an average annual salary of $11.2 million on his last deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers and is still likely to command $7-9 million per year on the open market.

    However, the Raiders should be willing to spend that if it means answering one of their biggest defensive questions heading into 2022.


    *Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted. Cap and contract information via Spotrac.

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