Las Vegas Raiders 2022 Offseason Preview: Pending free agents, team needs, draft picks, and more

How will the Las Vegas Raiders tackle the 2022 offseason and deal with their pending free agents, team needs, and draft picks?

The Las Vegas Raiders had the year from hell in 2021. Head coach Jon Gruden resigned after disqualifying messages became public. Deep-threat wide receiver Henry Ruggs will likely never play football again. Five losses in six games nearly derailed their season. And yet, the Raiders got hot late to remain in the mix and make the playoffs. Still, we expect big changes in 2022. Let’s examine Vegas’ options in an offseason preview that looks at their cap space, pending free agents, team needs, and draft picks.

Las Vegas Raiders 2022 Offseason Preview

Raiders owner Mark Davis is at a crossroads. His dream of Gruden restoring the Raiders to past greatness is dead. So what comes next? Before the Raiders even address their roster, they have to figure out who will be picking and coaching those players. Interim head coach Rich Bisaccia did an admirable job keeping Vegas competitive, but the sheer number of off-field embarrassments suggests he didn’t have a firm grasp of the locker room.

How about GM Mike Mayock? Will he have to answer for missing or overlooking so many character red flags? As for the players, the biggest unknown is what Vegas will do at quarterback. Derek Carr is entering the final year of his existing deal, and not a dime of his $19.8 million base salary is guaranteed.

Raiders have $38.2 million in projected cap space

Source: Spotrac (as of Jan. 16)

Las Vegas’ top two cap liabilities in 2022 — Carr and tackle Kolton Miller ($16.8 million) — could be moved without a dime of dead money. But beyond that, the Raiders don’t have a ton of easy ways to clear out space. Minimal rollover from 2021 and $9.5 million in dead money (from the release of Ruggs and cornerback Damon Arnette) are complicating factors. Plus, why would the Raiders want to cut Miller? He’s been one of their most dependable players.

Then again with $38.2 million in projected cap space, they do not need to do anything rash. Sure, they only have 34 players under contract currently so they will need to fill out their roster, but some of that will be minimum value contracts to fill out the final spots. There should still be plenty of ammunition to go and get a couple of marquee free agents to make another run at the playoffs in the 2022-23 season.

Raiders’ pending free agents

The Raiders have 20 unrestricted free agents, but how many of them are irreplaceable? Not many, if any.

But here’s the list. Decide for yourself: Linebackers K.J. Wright, Justin March-Lillard, and Nicholas Morrow; defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins, Quinton Jefferson, Darius Philon, and Gerald McCoy; defensive end Solomon Thomas; quarterback Marcus Mariota; running backs Jalen Richard and Peyton Barber; cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Desmond Trufant; wide receivers Zay Jones and DeSean Jackson; guards Richie Incognito and Jermaine Eluemunor; center Nick Martin; tight end Derek Carrier; and tackle Brandon Parker.

Raiders’ team needs

The following list does not include quarterback because Carr is more than serviceable, and he’s quite good at his best. But he could also be flipped for an asset — potentially a really valuable one — and the franchise would finally be able to start fresh. Nevertheless, that’s a luxury, not a need.

Instead, it is a supporting cast for Carr that remains the top priority. The Ruggs’ incident has meant that a WR jumps up the priority list this offseason. Additionally, the swing and a miss on Alex Leatherwood means there is still a hole to fill at right tackle. Then there is also the potential to upgrade at guard. That is before we even get to the defense, where there are also pressing needs. Here are Vegas’ top needs heading into 2022.

Raiders’ top five needs in the 2022 NFL offseason

  • Wide receiver
  • Right tackle
  • Defensive tackle
  • Guard
  • Linebacker

Raiders’ 2022 NFL Draft picks

Most years, a team picking where Vegas is would not give much thought to drafting a quarterback. The best prospects are all gone, and the high-variance projects will still be available in Round 2. But this is an unusual year for quarterback prospects. There’s a good chance none go in the top 10. But the Raiders’ draft range might be the sweet spot for the likes of Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh), Matt Corral (Ole Miss), or Carson Strong (Nevada).

Here’s how the Raiders’ 2022 NFL Draft picks currently stand according to the draft order:

  • Round 1 (Pick 22)
  • Round 2 (Pick 21)
  • Round 3 (Pick 22)
  • Round 4 (Pick 21)
  • Round 5 (Pick 21 — from NE & Pick 22)
  • Round 7 (Pick 6 — from CAR)

Adam Beasley is the National NFL Analyst and Insider for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.