Raiders' Top Players to Avoid in 2021 NFL Free AgencyMarch 1, 2021
Raiders' Top Players to Avoid in 2021 NFL Free Agency
If the Las Vegas Raiders have a strong offseason, they could be heading to the playoffs in the 2021 season and ending their four-year postseason drought. This past season, they went 8-8 (their first non-losing season since 2016) and now they'll have an opportunity to bolster their roster and fill some of their holes.
Although the Raiders are projected to be $7.7 million over the NFL's salary cap (assuming a cap around $180.5 million) by Over the Cap, they could clear some space before free agency begins on March 17. That means Las Vegas should have an opportunity to sign some free agents to help bolster some areas of its roster that need improvement.
But if the Raiders are going to get back to the playoffs and have sustained success in the future, then they need to make smart moves this offseason and add free agents who will produce at a high level for the right price. And they need to avoid players who may not live up to expectations or come at too high of a cost.
Here are several free agents Las Vegas should avoid signing this offseason.
Ryan Kerrigan, LB
After spending his first 10 NFL seasons in Washington, Ryan Kerrigan is a free agent and could be joining a new team for the first time in his career. And because the Raiders are looking to improve their pass rush, perhaps they're considering going after the veteran linebacker. However, that isn't what Las Vegas should do.
Kerrigan will be 33 when the 2021 season arrives, and his most productive days may be behind him. He's recorded only 11 sacks in 28 games over the past two seasons, mostly serving in a reserve role in 2020. While it's possible he could put up better numbers if he's on the field more next season, it may be unlikely for him to play the way he did early in his career.
Las Vegas should address its pass rush during free agency after it ranked 29th in the NFL with only 21 sacks last season. But it could be worth spending a bit more to get a player who can fill that need a bit better than Kerrigan likely can at this point in his career.
It may also be more beneficial for the Raiders to bolster their pass rush through the draft, so their defensive front can potentially be strong for years to come. Regardless of whether they do that or not, they should spend the free-agent budget that it would cost to land Kerrigan in a different way.
Sheldon Rankins, DT
It's highly likely that Las Vegas is going to either sign or draft a defensive tackle this offseason. Not only could that potentially help its pass rush improve, but it would help bolster its defensive front, which is another area that needs to be improved before the 2021 season.
Sheldon Rankins will only be 27 when the new season arrives, but he hasn't played as well the past two seasons, partially because of injuries. He's had only 30 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 22 games during that span after he played in all 16 games in both 2017 and 2018, collecting a career-high eight sacks in the latter season.
If Rankins can stay healthy moving forward, then it's possible he'll return to producing at a high level. But the Raiders would be better served by signing a free-agent defensive tackle who is more reliable and who they can count on to improve one of their largest defensive weaknesses.
Rather than trying to sign Rankins, Las Vegas should go after Leonard Williams, who is coming off a career season in which he had 11.5 sacks in 16 games for the New York Giants. He's also been more reliable than Rankins during his career, so it should be a wiser investment for the Raiders.
Top-Tier Wide Receivers
Last year, the Raiders signed Nelson Agholor on a low-risk, high-reward deal, and it ended up being a steal. They paid Agholor $1.05 million for one season, then he ended up being their top wide receiver, notching 48 catches for 896 yards and eight touchdowns.
This offseason, perhaps Las Vegas will look to bring Agholor back. Or it could try to find a receiver in the same position as Agholor last year and try to capitalize again on a low-risk contract. Either way, the Raiders shouldn't spend a ton on a free-agent wide receiver this offseason.
Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards should keep improving as they gain more experience, as both were rookies in 2020. Ruggs, who was a first-round draft pick last year, has breakout potential after hauling in 26 passes for 452 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Would adding a free-agent receiver such as JuJu Smith-Schuster, Allen Robinson II or another top-tier option help Las Vegas? Likely yes, but it may come at too high of a cost. The Raiders have other needs to address, and their receiving corps is solid enough that it should work out well if they bring back Agholor or sign a more affordable player instead.