Las Vegas Raiders Undergoing A Defensive Makeover

Mason Thompson   | March 19th, 2020

Everyone knew that the Raiders would be active in the offseason this year. The third year of the Jon Gruden tenure, as well as the second under Mike Mayock, was a big one. The Raiders had a great draft last year but had a good amount of cap space to spend in free agency. Well, they have. The first few days of free agency have brought in veteran players to help all over the defense. Let’s take a look at each of the signings and what the new additions mean to the team.

Cory Littleton, Linebacker

The Raiders announced on Tuesday that they signed Littleton to a three-year contract worth $36,000,000. He was an undrafted free agent out of Washington in 2016 and played last year with a salary of $3,000,000. This is a big step up for Littleton, as well as the Raiders. Las Vegas has desperately needed linebacker help for years and seemingly hasn’t addressed it.

Nick Kwiatkoski, Linebacker

As well as signing Littleton, the Raiders also signed Kwiatkoski on Tuesday from Chicago. The deal for Kwiatkoski is another three-year deal worth $21,000,000 with $13,500,000 in guarantees. PFF’s 15th-rated linebacker from last year finally was able to test the market after showing potential in Chicago for years. It isn’t surprising the Raiders doubled down on the position like Green Bay did at edge rusher last year.

Carl Nassib, Edge Rusher

The former Hard Knocks star showed in Tampa Bay a ton of potential and cashed in on Tuesday. Nassib’s deal is a three-year, $25,000,000 deal, worth up to $28,000,000 with $17,000,000 guaranteed. This isn’t as big of a signing as it seems, as he figures to play a role as the third edge defender behind Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell. This most likely signals the end of Arden Key‘s time in Las Vegas.

Jeff Heath, Safety

Heath signed a two-year contract worth $8,000,000 on Tuesday. With Karl Joseph heading to Cleveland late Wednesday, the Raiders needed someone to shore up the back end. Heath will now battle with Erik Harris for the safety spot outside first-round pick, Johnathan Abram, while Lamarcus Joyner plays nickel cornerback. He isn’t great in coverage but is a safety that isn’t afraid to lay someone out.

Eli Apple, Cornerback

The contract details are still unknown for this deal. He has been inconsistent ever since he came into the NFL, which resulted in him getting traded to the Saints. The Raiders needed insurance in case they couldn’t fork out some cash to a big name cornerback like Chris Harris or Logan Ryan. It looks like this signing means they didn’t and don’t intend to sign Ryan. This signing doesn’t signal the end of the Raiders’ needs at cornerback.

Maliek Collins, Defensive Tackle

As with Apple, the contract details for this signing are unknown. Collins figures to be a rotational player behind Maurice Hurst and Johnathan Hankins. He was coached by Raiders defensive line coach, Rod Marinelli in Dallas while Marinelli was the defensive coordinator.

The Raiders also signed Jason Witten and Marcus Mariota. Those two signings were on offense and neither figures to play much this year unless Carr struggles.

Mayock knew that the defense needed help and gave it help at all three levels. The signings of Littleton and Kwiatkoski put the Raiders out of the sweepstakes for Patrick Queen in the draft with their two first-round picks. Now, the Raiders can focus on the two major needs, receiver, and cornerback with their two first-round selections.

The AFC West has been very active in free agency thus far. The Chargers have added two key offensive linemen, a star cornerback, and retained their star tight end for whoever plays quarterback next year. They now have the flexibility to take the best tackle or quarterback available with the sixth selection in next month’s draft.

The Broncos made a trade for A.J. Bouye a few weeks ago, added Graham Glasgow, and traded for Jurrell Casey Wednesday morning. The Broncos can now aggressively attack the wide receiver position in the first round as they have addressed three major needs in the last few weeks.

Kansas City has been fairly quiet. Of course, they are the Super Bowl champions though. The AFC West is one of the best divisions in the league and with a changing AFC culture, the Raiders could possibly sneak into the Playoffs next year.

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