A look at the Raiders’ roster 1 week into free agency
As free agency hits the second phase, the Raiders will continue to focus on cost-effective roster building with an eye on the NFL draft, where they have 12 picks.
Updated March 21, 2023 - 8:14 pm
The Raiders’ philosophy under the leadership of general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels became clear after the first week of free agency.
The two, in their second year in charge of personnel decisions, will prioritize the long-range benefits of the NFL draft over the immediate thrill provided by expensive free-agent signings.
Or, as someone with knowledge of the Raiders’ thinking said: “Names don’t make you better. Having the right players make you better.”
That might not be what the team’s rabid fan base, which has seen one regime after another crash and burn in the past two decades, wants to hear. But Ziegler and McDaniels believe their patient approach will eventually achieve what so many of their predecessors could not — a home-grown foundation that uses free agency as a supplement to build sustained success.
Hence, the measured approach in the early stages of free agency, which has netted expected starters in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, linebacker Robert Spillane and safety Marcus Epps.
The Raiders also have retained a handful of their free agents and added depth pieces in cornerback Brandon Facyson and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett.
As free agency hits the second phase, the Raiders will continue to focus on cost-effective roster building with an eye on the draft. Armed with 12 picks, including five among the top 109, the goal is to infuse their roster with youth and explosiveness, specifically on defense, where they have needs at all levels.
Here’s a look at where things stand and their remaining lingering needs:
The Raiders are bringing back Jermaine Eluemunor, their starting right tackle, and swing tackle Brandon Parker, who missed last season with a tricep injury. They join Thayer Munford, entering his second season, and Justin Herron, who suffered a season-ending knee injury soon after the Raiders traded for him in September, in a crowded room anchored by left tackle Kolton Miller. It doesn’t mean the Raiders won’t look to the draft for help, but they no longer have to be urgent at the position.
It’s a different story at guard, where the Raiders need a starter on the right side and, depending on what happens with Dylan Parham, perhaps at left guard. Parham’s best long-range position could be center, and the Raiders will consider making that move at some point. A deep draft class along the interior of the line could produce an immediate starter. Keep an eye on Netane Muti, a late-season addition the Raiders like a lot.
The Raiders traded Darren Waller last week, and with Foster Moreau a free agent, they have a glaring hole at tight end with only Jesper Horsted and Cole Fotheringham on the roster. Moreau reportedly met with the Saints last week, and the Bengals also have been in the mix, so his return looks unlikely.
Veterans Dalton Schultz and Irv Smith are long-shot options. That leaves the draft, which is brimming with talent.
On the inside, the Raiders are bringing back Jerry Tillery, who adds interior pass rush, and still have hopes for 2022 draft picks Matthew Butler and Neil Farrell alongside Bilal Nichols.
Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones anchor the outside. The Raiders are in the mix for Dolphins veteran Andrew Van Ginkel.
Clearly, this is an area the Raiders are targeting for an infusion of youth and explosiveness. Picking at No. 7, the Raiders could have their choice among Georgia’s Jalen Carter, Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson, Clemson’s Myles Murphy and Iowa’s Lucas Van Ness.
After the first round, Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey, Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kancey and Louisiana State’s BJ Ojulari, among many others, could be available.
The Raiders could come away with starting or immediate rotational players inside and outside with their first three picks.
The Raiders addressed safety with the signing of Epps, who will quarterback the back end and work in conjunction with Tre’von Moehrig and Isiah Palo-Mao. Roderic Teamer adds depth. The Raiders will look to the third round and beyond for additional help.
Cornerback is an area of immediate concern. The Raiders are counting on Nate Hobbs bouncing back and are intrigued with young corners Sam Webb, Bryce Cosby and Tyler Hall. There is the veteran depth in Facyson and Amik Robertson.
But they need to get more dynamic. It’s a deep draft class at the position, with starting candidates available from the seventh pick into the second and third day of the draft.
Spillane replaces Denzel Perryman at inside linebacker, and while the Raiders will have to scheme-protect his pass-defense deficiencies, there is no questioning his run defense. He flashes as a pass rusher, so that is one way he can stay on the field on some passing downs.
Divine Deablo and the promising Luke Masterson are also back. The draft offers intriguing possibilities on the second and third days.
Contacts Vincent Bonsignore at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.