OAKLAND, Calif. — Gareon Conley is a core part of the Raiders’ plans at cornerback.
On Friday, he gained company.
Former Indianapolis Colts cornerback Rashaan Melvin signed a one-year, $6.5 million contract. Cornerback Shareece Wright also said that he will be signing with the club. Effectively, the Raiders took a significant step in addressing what was widely viewed as the most glaring need on their roster.
David Amerson, TJ Carrie, Sean Smith and Conley entered last season as the team’s top cornerbacks. Conley, a 2017 first-round pick, is the only one who remains. The team has high hopes for his future despite a shin injury that limited him to 92 defensive snaps as a rookie.
An NFL coach who helped guide Melvin’s development spoke Friday on the condition of anonymity. If a fit with his current team, he said, he’d advocate signing him “with zero hesitation.”
“He is everything you want as a competitor,” the coach said via text message. “Love him to death. He is an alpha dog! You guys are going to love him if you get him. Not pretty. Just grimy and gritty. I’ve never seen a guy force more incompletions in my life. Not a lot of turnovers but he forces incompletions at a very high rate.
“Great guy, too. … Grew up big time last year. He is ready to be a No. 1 guy.”
Melvin, 28, entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie in 2013 from Northern Illinois. He made the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ roster but missed most of the season to injury.
The Bucs cut him in 2014, and he then began to bounce around the NFL. He had stops with the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots and eventually the Colts for the past two years.
His most ample workload came in Indy.
He started nine of 15 games in 2016, totaling 60 tackles with two forced fumbles and seven passes defensed. Last season, he started the first 10 games while recording 13 passes defended, including the first three interceptions of his career.
Melvin’s breakthrough campaign, however, was cut short. A hand injury ended his season in November. He said he is “completely” healthy now.
“The goal is to be the best player I can be, first-team All-Pro,” Melvin said. “Show my leadership, help these young guys out this year. They have tons of potential to be successful in their own careers. For me coming in here and being the leader and showing that, hey, this is what it takes to be successful in this football league, that’s what I’m willing to do. That’s what I’m willing to bring to the table. On the football field but outside as well.”
Pro Football Focus graded him as the league’s No. 17 cornerback last season.
The advanced stat service determined that quarterbacks had a passer rating of 60.3 on throws in Melvin’s direction. For comparison, Quincy Wilson was the closest Colts cornerback; he had an 88.5 opposing rating. In all, Melvin allowed a reception on 29 of 55 passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns with his three picks.
Wright said via a text exchange that he is joining the Raiders. He indicated as much earlier in the day, posting a photo of a Raiders logo on his Instagram account. The 30-year-old spent last season with the Buffalo Bills after a two-year stint with the Baltimore Ravens.