With the NFL trade deadline approaching on Tuesday, the Raiders figure to be looking to acquire some much-needed help, especially on defense.
They have seven draft picks in 2021 to use as trade bait, with picks in rounds one, two, three, five, six (two picks) and seven. So there is more than enough ammunition with which to make a move.
They also have an estimated $7 million to work with under the salary cap, which puts them in decent position to add an attractive target should one emerge.
With needs at all three levels of their defense, pinpointing one area more important than the others is difficult. Pass defense — be it creating more pressure on the quarterback or defending better in the secondary — is of utmost importance.
That said, the Raiders will remain careful in their pursuit. “I’m not saying a trade is out of the question, but some of the trades I’ve seen thrown out there are unrealistic,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said.
Here are six players who could be available — and could provide help.
The long shots
Stephon Gilmore, New England — The Patriots reportedly shopped Gilmore, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, during the offseason. While it’s unclear whether they are actively shopping him at this point, that could change if the right offer crossed Bill Belichick’s desk.
It doesn’t hurt the Raiders that general manager Mike Mayock and Belichick have a close relationship.
Gilmore’s defensive grade on Pro Football Focus is down from years’ past, but it’s also skewed a bit, thanks to a rough day against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2 in which he surrendered a 54-yard touchdown reception to DJ Metcalf.
His ability to play inside would be particularly attractive to the Raiders. That would allow them to play Gilmore in addition to young cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen and Damon Arnette rather than in lieu of either.
Gilmore has roughly $8 million remaining in 2020 salary, which means the Raiders would have to create space to fit him in under the cap.
According to an NFL personnel executive, the asking price for Gilmore would be no less than a first-round pick.
J.J. Watt, Houston — The Texans are in fire-sale mode after a slew of head-scratching decisions by former coach Bill O’Brien predictably backfired. There are reports that Watt, a Houston mainstay and one of the faces of the Texans’ franchise, could be available.
Even at this stage of his career, the 31-year-old Watt would provide a huge boost to the Raiders’ pass rush. His 11 quarterback pressures would rank first on the team and his three sacks would be second.
Adding Watt could allow the Raiders to move Cle Ferrell inside for longer periods of the game, which would create more advantageous matchups for Ferrell against guards and centers.
Like Gilmore, the Raiders would have to move some money around to fit the remaining $8 million of Watt’s 2020 salary under the cap.
Geno Atkins, Cincinnati — As recently as last season, Atkins was an interior force along the defensive line. While his playing time has decreased in recent weeks, he is still an intimidating force who would instantly become the Raiders’ best defensive lineman.
Atkins’ ability to create push inside — and take up space — would greatly benefit outside rushers Cle Ferrell and Maxx Crosby and also help free up linebackers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski to fly around and make plays.
He is familiar with Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, having played for him with the Bengals, and isn’t guaranteed any money beyond next season. He could likely be had for a second- or third-day draft pick.
Ryan Kerrigan, Washington — He doesn’t add much in run defense, but he can still get to the quarterback as evidenced by his four sacks and 10 quarterback pressures, both of which would be among the best on the Raiders.
Kerrigan is in the last year of his contract, so the Raiders wouldn’t have to do much to add the remaining $6.8 left on his 2020 salary.
Harrison Smith, Minnesota — The Vikings are going nowhere fast and will likely turn their attention to the future as they try to regroup around draft picks and salary cap space.
Smith is still an effective player on the back end of a defense. His veteran presence would be a welcome addition alongside Johnathan Abram, who still needs some refining.
The Raiders have struggled at safety, with neither Erik Harris nor Jeff Heath distinguishing themselves as reliable players. Smith would solve that issue. His experience in Mike Zimmer’s defense makes him a perfect fit as the Raiders’ defensive coordinator is a Zimmer disciple.
Anthony Harris, Minnesota — For the same reasons that Smith might be available, so too would Harris, a ball-hawking safety who had nine interceptions between 2018 and 2019.
Harris has been up and down this year, but he’d be an upgrade over both Harris and Heath.
Other trade targets
Whitney Mercilus (Texans)
Takkarist McKinley (Falcons)
Dalvin Tomlinson (Giants)
Malik Jackson (Eagles)
Sheldon Rankins (Saints)
Avery Williamson (Jets)
Neville Hewitt (Jets)
William Jackson III (Bengals)
Fabian Moreau (Washington)
Ronald Darby (Washington)
Marcus Maye (Jets)
Bradley McDougald (Jets)
Justin Simmons (Broncos)