We here at Silver and Black Pride have all been assessing lately the various needs during free agency and the draft. We have covered fairly well the offensive line, wide receiver and linebacker. Now, looking at the safety position and the Raiders current roster, there has to be some concern about addressing this need quickly.
Gibril Wilson, despite his detractors, was released because he would not renegotiate his contract, otherwise he would still be the Raiders starting strong safety. That leaves the Raiders current roster with:
- Darrick Brown
- Tyvon Branch
- Hiram Eugene
- Michael Huff
Rashad Baker is listed on the roster , but he is a UFA and remains unsigned. At this point we are looking at Hiram Eugene and Michael Huff as our starting safeties with Branch in the competition.
A lot has been said about Michael Huff on this site and in the media, so this certainly is the year that Huff is going to make make it or forever be known as a bust. Maybe Huff is a result of the read and react style defense installed by Rob Ryan. Huff is still young and maybe the change of coordinator from Ryan to John Marshall will get Huff on track. In his three seasons with the Raiders, Huff played two at strong safety and one at free safety, with virtually no improvement shown after the switch. However, while at strong safety, Huff at least did a good job covering the AFC's top tight ends. At this point, with Wilson gone, Huff looks to be back at strong safety.
Eugene, who is 28, also is no guarantee, either. He’s played well when given the chance to, but hasn’t recorded a full season at safety in his NFL career. He also has no career interceptions and just three passes defensed in three years.
Finally, there is Tyvon Branch, who recorded a pick last season before being placed on injured reserve in early November with a shoulder injury. Branch could very well develop into a starting NFL safety someday, but he certainly isn’t one at this point.
After little more than a week into free agency, we have seen numerous quality free agent safeties that were available either re-sign with their old clubs or get signed by new ones. The remaining quality safeties is shrinking fast and depending on what the Raiders think of Huff will determine whether and if they sign any free agents. And if so, will they be for strong safety or free safety?
Here's a look at the remaining "quaility" free agents:
- Mike Brown
- Dawan Landry
- Jarrad Page
- Darren Sharper
- Roy Williams
The above safeties all have their issues be it injury or sub-par coverage skills, which would indicate that signing any one of them would merely be a stop gap.
In conclusion, the Raiders will have to hope under John Marshall that Huff and Branch will develop into above average safeties and be part of their long-term future. Otherwise, the Raiders will have to look to the draft, but with wide receiver, the offensive / defensive line and linebacker seeming to be the picks before safety, finding an impact player in the later rounds seems unlikely.
What do you think the Raiders will do for their safety positions in 2009?