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Raiders have more decisions on defense after giving Maxx Crosby raise

Updated May 28, 2024 - 9:12 am

The Raiders gave Maxx Crosby, one of the NFL’s best defensive ends, a well-deserved $6 million pay raise Thursday for the 2024 season. But he’s not the only Raider in line for a new deal.

Six key players from a defense that surrendered the ninth-fewest points in the NFL last season are entering the final year of their contracts. A case can be made for each to be brought back, either on an extension this summer or a new contract next offseason.

A look at the pending free agents and how the club could approach each situation:

Robert Spillane, linebacker

The Raiders hit the jackpot with the addition of Spillane last year on a two-year, $7 million contract. A backup player for the bulk of his first five seasons, he blossomed as a full-time starter and quickly emerged as a team leader and cornerstone of one of the league’s best defenses.

Spillane played 97 percent of the defensive snaps and was a determined run defender and dependable pass-cover linebacker. He led the team in tackles (148) and interceptions (three).

Spillane, 28, enters the final year of what is now a bargain contract, so it makes sense for the Raiders to consider extending his stay. At the least, a two-year extension from $18 million to $20 million would create much-needed certainty at a critical position.

The Raiders drafted Ohio State linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, who has a Spillane-like skill set, in April. He could replace Spillane if the Raiders don’t re-sign the veteran.

Nate Hobbs, cornerback

After moving from the slot to the perimeter in 2022, Hobbs was back inside last season and was the Raiders’ fifth-leading tackler (86) and second on pass breakups (seven). He’s one of the league’s most physical and effective slot corners. The only concern is injuries, as Hobbs has missed 10 games the past two seasons.

His pairing with Jack Jones gives the Raiders one of the league’s best young cornerback tandems, a relationship worth maintaining.

Hobbs, 24, feels like a priority re-sign. A three-year, $24 million deal with $16 million guaranteed could get it done.

Tre’von Moehrig, safety

Moehrig is coming off career highs of 83 tackles, three interceptions and eight pass breakups. He struggled to learn new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s scheme in 2022 before breaking out last season.

The Raiders would be wise to lock up Moehrig soon. But with Antoine Winfield recently getting a record-breaking deal for the position — four years, $84.1 million, with $48 million guaranteed — from the Buccaneers, Moehrig, 24, might want to play out the season before signing a new contract.

Divine Deablo, linebacker

Deablo produced a career-high 106 tackles last season. He has missed 13 games the past two seasons, but has been a mainstay as a three-down linebacker able to defend the run and pass when healthy.

Deablo, 25, would be a prudent investment. But with Luke Masterson and Amari Burney waiting in the wings, the Raiders could opt to let Deablo leave as a free agent and collect a compensatory pick in return.

Malcolm Koonce, defensive end

Koonce presents an interesting question. With pass rush at such a premium, it’s hard to ignore the eight sacks, 23 quarterback pressures, 34 hurries and 17 quarterback hits he produced last season. Nearly all that production came in the final nine games, after Antonio Pierce replaced Josh McDaniels as head coach.

But up to that point, the 2021 third-round pick had been a nonfactor. Therein lies the issue.

Was his lack of production during the first 2½ years of his career because he didn’t get a chance under McDaniels? And can the Raiders be certain that the 25-year-old will repeat the performance?

This feels like a wait-and-see situation more than an immediate priority.

Marcus Epps, safety

The Raiders signed Epps to a two-year, $12 million deal in March 2023, and he immediately established himself as the leader of the secondary. He played 91 percent of the defensive snaps and finished with 66 tackles and three pass breakups.

His presence was a huge benefit to the secondary. The leadership is unquestioned, and the numbers warrant consideration for a new deal for the 28-year-old.

That said, the Raiders have built a solid safety room. They could have replacements in place in second-year prospect Christopher Smith and rookie Trey Taylor. Their progress might determine Epps’ future with the team.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

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