With the NFL season and free agency starting in March, the Las Vegas Raiders will prioritize improving the defense. Luckily enough for the Raiders, they do not have many notable free agents in 2021.
The Raiders have to start acquiring free agent talent in 2021
If you can’t draft talent, then you have to get it from somewhere. Most of the guys you see in the Raiders’ 2021 free agency class are members of the 2017 NFL Draft class. Unless they were taken in the first round and had their fifth-year option picked up, they hit the market. Let’s have a quick refresher on the Raiders’ 2017 draft class.
In 2017, the Oakland Raiders selected Gareon Conley in the first round, Obi Melifonwu in the second, and Eddie Vanderdoes in the third. Conley and Vanderdoes were with the Houston Texans in 2020. However, neither played. Melifonwu, on the other hand, is on the open market without a team.
Fourth-round pick David Sharpe was on the team, then off the team, back to the Raiders, and finally played the 2020 season with the Washington Football Team. The Raiders’ fifth-round pick from 2017, Marquel Lee, has played in just five games over the last two seasons. Furthermore, the Raiders had four picks in Round 7 that year, but none of them lasted with the team.
Out of nine picks, none of them remain with the team or were on the Raiders’ 2020 roster. However, if there is one benefit of poor drafting, it makes the Raiders’ free agent decisions a bit easier.
Salary cap space will be an issue for the Raiders in 2021
According to Over the Cap, the Las Vegas Raiders come into the 2021 free agency period a projected $10.498 million over the salary cap.
By playing most of the games without fans last year, the revenue took a massive hit due to no money coming in the gates every Sunday. As a result, current estimations have the salary cap at $176 million. That is down $22.2 million from the previous season. The NFL and NFLPA agreed to a salary cap floor of $175 million.
The Raiders need to free up space to negotiate with not only 2021 free agents, but they also need to address the elephant in the room named Derek Carr. He is due $19 million and change in both 2021 and 2022.
Sure, he has played better each season under head coach Jon Gruden, but it hasn’t stopped them from seriously inquiring into other options. Most recently, Tom Brady last offseason.
Is Carr the future of the Raiders’ offense or simply a player causing a salary cap issue? The Raiders want to be active in the free agent market. However, in order to do so, money needs to be freed up.
Nelson Agholor bet on himself and won as he enters free agency in 2021
Nelson Agholor was, in fact, one of the NFL’s biggest surprises to come out of free agency. He was the downfield receiver for the Raiders that he never was for the Philadelphia Eagles.
He bet on himself with a one-year contract to play for Las Vegas for a $910,000 minimum veteran salary and $137,500 signing bonus. Agholor ended up with 48 receptions for 896 yards and 8 touchdowns. His 18.67 yards per catch led the NFL among receivers with 40 or more catches in 2020. Of the Raiders’ pass catchers, Agholor’s 82 targets ranked behind only Darren Waller’s 145.
He was the threat the Raiders thought they drafted when they selected Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III as the first WR off the board in last year’s draft.
According to Spotrac, Agholor enters free agency with an estimated $9.7 million market value on a two-year, $19.547 million contract. I’d say his gamble paid off in the long run.
The Raiders need to make a plan for their free agent pass rushers
If there is one position the Raiders need to make some tough choices on in 2021, it’s with their defensive line free agents. DE Takkarist McKinley, DT Johnathan Hankins, and DE Vic Beasley will all hit the open market this offseason.
What’s the point of claiming a player off waivers only to never see them play? For instance, if the Raiders let McKinley leave in the 2021 free agency period, that is what will happen.
Sure, they claimed him with the hopes that he could return and help them in a playoff run. Neither of those things happened, however. He played in four games (all with Atlanta) and spent the season rehabbing his groin. Las Vegas could sign him to a prove-it deal — they need pass rush help.
Speaking of former Atlanta players who could see a prove-it deal after a disappointing season, let’s look at Vic Beasley. He played in 10 games last season for both the Tennessee Titans and Raiders but underperformed. He had zero sacks or pressures and one tackle in the five games with Las Vegas. His snap counts were in the range of eight to 24.
Although Johnathan Hankins’ pass-rushing ability has declined in recent seasons, he should still see free agency interest. He recorded 50 total tackles to go alongside 1.5 sacks and a pass deflection last year.
Las Vegas Raiders’ 2021 offensive free agents
WR Nelson Agholor, 28
RB Devontae Booker, 29
TE Derek Carrier, 31
T Denzelle Good, 30
WR Zay Jones, 26
QB Nathan Peterman, 27
RB Theo Riddick, 30
T Sam Young, 34
Las Vegas Raiders’ 2021 defensive and special teams free agents
DE Vic Beasley, 29
K Daniel Carlson, 26
DT Johnathan Hankins, 29
S Erik Harris, 31
CB Nevin Lawson, 30
S Dallin Leavitt, 27
DE Takkarist McKinley, 26
LB Raekwon McMillan, 26
LB Nicholas Morrow, 26
LS Trent Sieg, 26
DE Kendal Vickers, 26
LB Kyle Wilber, 32
CB Daryl Worley, 26
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