Free-Agent Contracts Raiders Must Pursue After Preseason
Over the past week, the Las Vegas Raiders have made some noteworthy changes to their roster ahead of the 2021 season. And it's possible they're not done and will have more moves coming before their opener against the Baltimore Ravens at Allegiant Stadium on September 13.
Before last Tuesday's 53-man roster deadline, the Raiders made a round of cuts that included notable players such as wide receiver John Brown, safety Karl Joseph and cornerback Isaiah Johnson. However, they also added some depth at running back, signing Peyton Barber to back up Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake.
Was Barber the final addition to Las Vegas' roster, or will the team dive back into the free-agent market for another late move or two? We'll have to see how the next week develops.
In the meantime, here's a look at several players the Raiders should still consider signing for the 2021 season.
Danny Amendola, WR
It's possible the Raiders wouldn't have released Brown if the 31-year-old hadn't requested to be let go (according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero). Now, Las Vegas doesn't have much veteran leadership in its receiving corps.
Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards are likely to have big roles during their second NFL season, while Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones and Willie Snead IV fill out the rest of the Raiders' WR depth chart. It's a group that could still benefit from a proven, experienced playmaker to provide mentorship and serve in a supporting role.
Amendola could be a potential fit as a 35-year-old with 12 seasons of NFL experience. He's never put up huge numbers in his career, but he's typically been consistent. That was even the case in 2020, when he had 46 catches for 602 yards in 14 games with the Detroit Lions. It was Amendola's seventh season with more than 600 receiving yards, although he's never had more than 689.
Anything Amendola could contribute to Las Vegas would be a plus, though, as Ruggs and Edwards have the breakout potential to anchor the group. Amendola could be a solid supporting piece in the Raiders' push to get to the playoffs this season.
Olivier Vernon, DE
After ranking 29th in the NFL with 21 sacks last season, the Raiders needed to improve their pass rush for 2021. They signed free-agent defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, and that should provide a boost to the unit. But will it be enough for Las Vegas to consistently put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks?
There are still some question marks on the Raiders' defensive front, particularly surrounding 24-year-old Clelin Ferrell, who hasn't lived up to expectations after getting taken with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft. If he underperforms again, then Las Vegas' depth will be tested, and it could lead to some struggles.
That's why the Raiders should consider signing Vernon, one of the top remaining free-agent pass rushers, to provide a boost to a unit that held back their defense in 2020. It couldn't hurt for Las Vegas to have depth there so it can rotate players in and out and keep its defensive front fresh at all times.
In 14 games with the Cleveland Browns last season, Vernon had nine sacks, his most since recording 11.5 in 2013. At 30, he can still be a strong pass rusher, and it would make sense for him to join a team like the Raiders who seem to be on the cusp of getting to the playoffs.
Kamal Martin, LB
This would be a free-agent signing more with the future in mind rather than the short-term impact. The Raiders have a solid linebacking corps, and they already added free-agent K.J. Wright last week, but it could be smart for them to also pursue Martin.
It came as a surprise that the Green Bay Packers opted to release the 23-year-old Martin ahead of last Tuesday's roster deadline. Martin, who was a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft, flashed his potential during his rookie season, recording 24 tackles and a sack in 10 games, which included six starts.
With Martin having so much of his career ahead of him, there will likely be plenty of interested teams. Still, Las Vegas should try its best to land the youngster and beat out any other suitors.
Not only would that move provide depth for the Raiders in 2021, but Martin could develop into an even more impactful player down the line. And the idea of that should be too enticing to pass up.