Free Agents Raiders Should Pursue After 2021 NFL Draft

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMay 10, 2021

Free Agents Raiders Should Pursue After 2021 NFL Draft

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    Jeff Bottari/Associated Press

    It's been a busy offseason for the Las Vegas Raiders as they have looked to assemble a roster that will get them back to the playoffs. They were active early in free agency and then added a wave of young talent in the 2021 NFL draft, during which they used five of their seven selections on defensive players.

    Since the draft, Las Vegas hasn't stopped trying to get better. It signed veteran cornerback Casey Hayward Jr., who could be a candidate to start alongside Trayvon Mullen in the secondary. The Raiders defense struggled last season, so it isn't a surprise that they are trying to improve the unit.

    Perhaps Las Vegas' work isn't done. Although the Raiders don't have much financial flexibility ($5.9 million of available cap space, per Over the Cap), there could still be depth moves to be made this offseason. Some quality players are still on the free-agent market, and several could be willing to sign for less as the 2021 season gets closer.

    Here's a look at three free agents the Raiders should consider signing this offseason.

Justin Houston, DE

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    Zach Bolinger/Associated Press

    Sure, Las Vegas has already brought in free-agent defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to bolster its pass rush and is hoping for better results from some youngsters, such as Clelin Ferrell. But the Raiders defense ranked 29th in the NFL with 21 sacks last season. So they can't add too much depth on the edges.

    Justin Houston is 32 and isn't the same defensive force he was earlier in his career, but he's proved to still be a solid player. He started all 32 games for the Indianapolis Colts the past two seasons, recording 69 tackles and 19 sacks during that stretch.

    Las Vegas' pass rush could take another step forward if it added Houston to its rotation on the edges. Even if Houston isn't a starter, he could make a big impact when he gets on the field.

    Of course, Houston could still receive other offers that may put him in a better situation. But if that doesn't happen, the Raiders should try to find a way to sign him, as their pass rush needs to perform better than it did in 2020.

Jerald Hawkins, OT

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    The Raiders took Alex Leatherwood in the first round of the draft with the intention of making him their starting right tackle in 2021. And Kolton Miller is set to again be at left tackle after starting 46 games over his first three NFL seasons.

    However, things don't always go according to plan, and injuries can occur. Las Vegas doesn't have a ton of depth at the tackles, and it parted ways with some of its more experienced offensive linemen earlier in the offseason.

    That's why it could be a wise move for the Raiders to bring in one more veteran tackle to battle for playing time and, at the least, be a valuable depth player up front for the 2021 season. Jerald Hawkins could fill that role, as the 27-year-old has played 19 career games, and 13 of those came with the Pittsburgh Steelers last year.

    Hawkins is a tackle Las Vegas could likely sign at a low cost to improve its depth. It wouldn't change the Raiders' starting offensive line, but it can never hurt to have more solid players in the mix.

Jesse James, TE

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    Gary McCullough/Associated Press

    Darren Waller is entrenched as the Raiders' No. 1 tight end. Foster Moreau is likely set to have a bigger role in the offense after Jason Witten retired earlier this year. But if Las Vegas has the luxury of adding another tight end who could improve its passing game, it could be a worthwhile move.

    The Raiders are lacking some size in their receiving corps, so adding another tight end to the mix could help make up for that a bit. Jesse James, who is 6'7" and 250 pounds, could be a valuable red-zone target for Las Vegas, especially in situations wherein Waller could be covered by two defenders.

    A six-year NFL veteran, James has spent the past two seasons with the Detroit Lions. During that time, he had 30 receptions for 271 yards and two touchdowns in 32 games.

    While James could put up bigger numbers (like he did earlier in his career for the Steelers), the Raiders likely wouldn't need him to. The 26-year-old could be a valuable role player for their offense and may provide them with the large target the unit could be missing.