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Raiders set to scour deep pool of free agent safeties

Updated March 5, 2019 - 6:56 pm

OAKLAND, Calif. — This is a new year.

The Raiders are not looking for a repeat of 2018 when their free-agency signings of 30-somethings turned their roster into the oldest in the NFL. This tactic achieved its desired aim, as veterans such as defensive end Frostee Rucker and wide receiver Jordy Nelson helped coach Jon Gruden instill a culture off which to build.

In 2019, he looks to go younger.

But there are exceptions to be made.

Eric Weddle, 34, became available Tuesday when the Baltimore Ravens notified the veteran of his release. The Raiders could be among the teams that pursue the six-time Pro Bowler. They plan to sign a starting safety opposite Karl Joseph and are sifting through what is considered arguably the deepest position group in free agency.

Landon Collins, 25, also joined the pool Tuesday when the New York Giants elected not to place the franchise tag on him.

It would be a surprise if the Raiders are serious contenders for Collins, presuming he commands the sort of money he is projected to attract on the open market. An option in the tier of Washington Redskins safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is more likely. The team is expected to show interest in Clinton-Dix, 26, when the legal tampering period opens March 11.

Clubs can negotiate with other teams’ impending free agents then.

Free agency officially starts March 13 at 1 p.m. PT.

Although Weddle may choose to play for an immediate Super Bowl contender, the Raiders might consider him an exception to their youth pursuit for the work ethic and leadership he provides.

Last weekend, at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, one of his former coaches raved about how Weddle can change a team’s building. He cited how Weddle mentored Adrian Phillips, a safety who joined the then-San Diego Chargers as an undrafted rookie in 2014 when Weddle was there.

Weddle took in Phillips, teaching him how to study game film during private sessions and how to prepare his body. Last year, Phillips passed on those same lessons to Los Angeles Chargers rookie safety Derwin James. James, Phillips and Weddle finished the season as Pro Bowl teammates in Orlando, Florida.

It was Phillips’ first such appearance.

He is an impending free agent, too.

Earl Thomas, Tyrann Mathieu, LaMarcus Joyner, Adrian Amos and Kenny Vaccaro highlight some of the others. Raiders safeties Marcus Gilchrist, a versatile veteran who started all 16 games last season, and Reggie Nelson are scheduled to join the class. It is unclear if Nelson, 36 in September, will continue his career.

Whomever the Raiders sign at safety will join Joseph and cornerback Gareon Conley in the secondary.

Last week, Gruden spoke highly of both.

“They are really important guys,” Gruden said at the combine. “Conley is very important. He was injured as a rookie. I thought he played pretty good last year. When he was healthy he played very well, had a streak of four or five games where he showcased some really good stuff. Karl Joseph has asserted himself as a leader on our football team, and those are two young guys that we are going to count on.”

More Raiders: Follow at reviewjournal.com/Raiders and @NFLinVegas on Twitter.

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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