During this free agency period, the Raiders were pretty busy. Many of the biggest moves they made were those that saw players leave the team. Most specifically trading away 3/5ths of their offensive line. While most of the additions they made didn’t really make big slashes.
There were some positive things to take from their moves. Here are their top five as I see them.
1. G Denzelle Good re-signed
Well before free agency even opened, re-signing Good was a move that had to be made. He was a pending free agent who has been a valuable piece of the Raiders’ offensive line the past couple of seasons. Last season he filled in at tackle and guard. So, even before the reports came out that the Raiders would be releasing both Richie Incognito AND Gabe Jackson, Good was a priority re-sign.
They ended up trading Jackson and cut Incognito with the intention of re-signing him to a lower cap figure. They also traded right tackle Trent Brown, for whom Good filled in early last season. Not only was the market slim at guard and tackle, but none made more sense than just bringing back the guy they already had.
2. Signed DE Yannick Ngakoue
Had the Raiders been looking for a 3-4 OLB edge rusher, there were plenty out there to be had. But despite Gus Bradley’s history in the 3-4, Jon Gruden made it clear he wants the Raiders to operate out of a 4-3 base. There were far fewer talented 4-3 DE’s on the market.
Ngakoue has 45.5 career sacks and has had at least eight sacks in each of his five seasons in the NFL. Averaging over nine sacks a season is something no Raiders player has done since Gruden returned as head coach in 2018. The only person to come close is Maxx Crosby who has 17 sacks over his two seasons (average 8.5 sacks per season).
3. Re-signed DT Johnathan Hankins
Hankins has been a full-time starter for the Raiders the past three seasons. In that time, he’s put up some impressive tackle numbers for a nose tackle. He is their interior run stuffer. And he’s it at his position.
The Raiders loaded up on defensive tackles in free agency, but none are nose tackles. So, there’s seems like a good chance they add one in the draft. Whether they do or not, Hankins will be a key cog in their defensive line again this season.
4. Signed WR John Brown
This move has grown on me. At first, it seemed confusing. Brown is basically the same player as Henry Ruggs III. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.
It all came down to Nelson Agholor. He was a bit of a hot commodity in free agency after a breakout season last year. And it didn’t take long for him to get snapped up by the Patriots on a 2-year deal. Last season Agholor quickly went from backup to the Raiders’ top wide receiver. Despite also kinda being the same type of receiver as Ruggs.
With Agholor wisely taking the $11 million per season the Patriots offered, the Raiders quickly set about replacing him. And they did so for a tidy $3.5 million for next season. Brown is more established than Agholor was this time last year. And just because they have Ruggs, doesn’t mean he is guaranteed to step up in his second year. Brown ensures they have a deep threat even if Ruggs doesn’t pan out.
5. Signed C/G Nick Martin
The shock had not yet worn off from the Raiders trading Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson to the Cardinals. Which was at least preferable to the initial news that they would be releasing him, but still stung.
The next day, the Raiders set about softening the blow with the addition of former Texans center Nick Martin. A few days later, the Raiders confused everyone all over again by giving backup center Andre James a three-year contract extension.
That move aside, adding Martin gives the Raiders a proven starting center. And should James win the starting center job, Martin can move to guard.