Raiders could use free agency to solidify defensive line
There are several options on the interior and the edge for the Raiders to solidify their defensive line in the free-agent market this offseason.
Editor’s note: This is the sixth story in an eight-part series looking at NFL free agency this offseason and how it relates to the Raiders.
Once Derek Carr’s salary comes off the books and before free agents are signed, Raiders players with the two highest cap hits for the 2023 season will be defensive ends.
So while the team has invested on the defensive line, there is plenty of work still to do.
Maxx Crosby is locked up to a long-term deal and worth every penny. He’s an elite pass rusher, a vastly improved run defender and an unquestioned leader in the locker room.
Chandler Jones is a borderline Hall of Famer, though that’s not based on his 2022 production. The Raiders will certainly want more from him next season, but they probably will look to add another edge rusher to bolster the pass rush should Malcolm Koonce not take a step forward.
Inside, the steady Bilal Nichols has another year left on his contract, while Neil Farrell Jr. and Matthew Butler continue in their development after being drafted last season.
Even assuming all of them remain on the roster, reinforcements are needed.
While another productive defensive end would be a luxury, the defense perhaps would benefit more from a disruptive playmaker at tackle.
Former first-round pick Jerry Tillery was signed late in the season and showed flashes of that. He’s a free agent and could be in the mix to return, but there will be plenty of other options on the market.
Here’s a look at some defensive linemen who could be available:
Javon Hargrave, Eagles
He will be 30 by the start of next season, but Hargrave figures to command a massive contract. He has excelled in several schemes and proven to be a dominant pass-rusher in all of them. He would open up more lanes for Crosby.
Daron Payne, Commanders
Payne, 25, is a former first-round pick who is set to hit free agency for the first time after playing out his fifth-year option in Washington. It would be surprising to see the Commanders let Payne get away without at least tagging him after he recorded 11.5 sacks this season, but the situation is complicated because they will be paying tackle Jonathan Allen more than $14 million next season.
Dalvin Tomlinson, Vikings
The 28-year-old isn’t an ideal scheme fit for the Raiders, but his production is appealing. He has the ability to wreck the opponent’s plans in the run game and is among the NFL’s best at securing tackles in the backfield.
Others: David Onyemata, Saints; Taven Bryan, Browns; Dre’Mont Jones, Broncos; Zach Allen, Cardinals; Sheldon Rankins, Jets; Shy Tuttle, Saints; Chris Wormley, Steelers.
Marcus Davenport, Saints
The 26-year-old former first-round pick will enter free agency for the first time as a bit of an enigma. He’s one of the most balanced ends in the league with strong marks against the run and elite pass-rushing traits, but he has yet to play a full season because of injuries. He did play a career-high 15 games this season and figures to be in line for a massive payday.
Jadeveon Clowney, Browns
He still has immense talent at age 29 and could be an intriguing option for the Raiders, especially if his price tag falls because of the bitter way his tenure in Cleveland ended.
Yannick Ngakoue, Colts
It would be interesting to bring back one of the first players coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler traded upon taking the job last offseason. Yeah, probably not.
Justin Houston, Ravens
Another player who could provide pass-rushing depth at a discount considering he is 34. He has 111.5 career sacks and simply knows how to get to the quarterback, particularly now that he’s essentially a passing down specialist.
Others: Melvin Ingram III, Dolphins; Charles Omenihu, 49ers; A’Shawn Robinson, Rams; Larry Ogunjobi, Steelers; Akiem Hicks, Buccaneers; Dante Fowler Jr., Cowboys; Poona Ford, Seahawks; Samson Ebukam, 49ers.
Contact Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.
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