Raiders' Top Trade Targets Entering 2021 NFL Offseason
In each of the past two seasons, the Las Vegas Raiders have started strong and appeared to be on their way to the playoffs. However, they struggled down the stretch and missed out on the postseason both times. Still, they went 8-8 in 2020 to end their streak of losing seasons at three.
It's possible that Las Vegas could be on the verge of getting back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season. That could depend on whether the Raiders make the right moves this offseason to improve their roster and help them take the necessary steps forward to reach the postseason.
While Las Vegas will add to its team in the 2021 NFL draft and by potentially signing free agents, it's also possible it will seek out trades to help fill some of its current needs. There are some strong players who could become available, and the Raiders may be in the market to try to swing a deal or two.
Here's a look at three potential trade targets for Las Vegas this offseason.
J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
J.J. Watt has been one of the best defensive players in the league during his 10-year NFL career, all of which has been spent with the Houston Texans. But it's possible that he could soon be getting a fresh start.
Houston is potentially going to be trading some of its top players this offseason as it could head in a new direction, and it's possible Watt may be getting dealt.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo, the Texans know they'll need to make a decision regarding the 31-year-old defensive end and it "might make more sense" for him to go to a new team.
If that's the case, there's likely to be no shortage of potential suitors for the five-time All-Pro pass rusher who has won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award three times. The Raiders could be among that group, as they need to improve their defensive front, and what better way to do so than by trading for Watt?
Last season, Watt had 52 tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one interception while starting all 16 games for the Texans. So even though he's going to be turning 32 in March, he's still playing at a high level, which is likely why it could take a sizable offer for a team to acquire him via trade.
But that could end up being worth it for Las Vegas, which ranked 29th in the NFL with 21 sacks this past season. Watt would not only add to that total, but he'd open up opportunities for others by drawing attention from opposing offensive lines, which could help improve the Raiders' pass rush as a whole.
Harrison Smith, S, Minnesota Vikings
Another way the Raiders could improve their defense this offseason is by adding a safety. Johnathan Abram has dealt with numerous injuries over the past few years, and he also struggled when he was on the field in 2020. But Las Vegas doesn't currently have any safeties who are likely to take over and perform better.
That would change if the Raiders could find a way to trade for Harrison Smith, who is entering the final season of his contract with the Minnesota Vikings. The soon-to-be 32-year-old has spent his entire nine-year NFL career in Minnesota, and he's been a consistently solid player on its defense during that time.
In 2020, Smith had 89 tackles, five interceptions and 10 pass deflections while starting all 16 games for the Vikings. But during the season, there were expectations among league executives that Minnesota was "very open" to potentially trading Smith, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.
Is that still the case? That's not clear at this point. But if the Vikings are still willing to move Smith, then the Raiders should consider trying to make a deal for the five-time Pro Bowler and former All-Pro safety, as he'd immediately provide a boost to their secondary.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Last season, the Raiders got tremendous production from a former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver. They signed Nelson Agholor as a free agent, and he went on to be Las Vegas' leading wide receiver, hauling in 48 passes for 896 yards and eight touchdowns in 16 games.
Now, Agholor is a free agent again this offseason. And if the Raiders don't bring him back, they could be looking for another veteran to add to their receiving corps, which features plenty of youngsters, including Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards, who were both rookies in 2020.
Perhaps Las Vegas could again have success by going for another receiver who has spent time in Philadelphia. Although 30-year-old Alshon Jeffery has been limited to 17 games over the past two seasons because of injuries, he could potentially still provide solid play next season and become a key receiving option for the Raiders.
There's a good chance that the Eagles move on from Jeffery, as they're going to be looking to clear salary cap this offseason. So they could start by looking for potential trade partners. And if it appears there are going to be some interested teams, then the Raiders may want to try to get involved.
But if Jeffery ends up getting released, it could be an even better opportunity for Las Vegas to add him in a lower-risk move. Either way, it could end up being a high-reward addition for 2021.