As is often the case, we wrap up this series with the Raiders last line of defense -- the safeties. The Raiders are in much need of adding a safety. They cut strong safety Tyvon Branch and have Charles Woodson entering what is likely his 18th and final NFL season.
Currently it's Woodson and Brandian Ross as the starters with both players having their best seasons at safety. That was with both players switching the positions they played last season and Woodson lining up at strong safety and Ross at free safety.
Ross having his best season is not saying a whole lot. He was literally the worst safety in the NFL last season per Pro Football Focus grading. He was easily considerably better this season.
Prior to the release of Branch, the fans voted this a moderate need. I would venture to say that would jump to desperate need now. I would rate it a top five need just behind WR, DE, and MLB.
And it's a good year to have a need at safety. There are a lot of good ones set to hit the market. Here are the ones who are likely to receive some serious interest from the Raiders.
One of a handful of free agents who a great many teams will be clamoring for. The former first round pick was a Pro Bowler as a rookie at cornerback. He switched to safety last season where he instantly became one of the best in the league.
Playing free safety the past three seasons, his arrival could allow Charles Woodson to remain at strong safety where he had a bounce back season in 2014. McCourty is 27 years old so he could easily sign a 5-year deal and be expected to finish that contract at a high level.
Here is what Rich Hill of Pats Pulpit had to say about McCourty:
McCourty was supposed to be the cornerback of the future and in his rookie season he was named to the All Pro [second] team at cornerback. His sophomore season, injuries to the other Patriots safeties (the Patriots used 11 safeties over the course of the year) resulted in the worst defense of the Bill Belichick era and McCourty had a major slump. The Patriots acquired Aqib Talib in 2012, which allowed the Patriots to move McCourty to safety mid-season and it turned out he was pretty good at it (he finished the team 8th in PFF's CB rankings and 14th in their S rankings). His first full season at free safety in 2013 earned an All Pro [second team] nod, which puts him in company with Ronnie Lott and Rod Woodson as the only players to be named to the All Pro position at both positions.
McCourty is a rock on the Patriots defense and they'll try everything they can to keep him in house. He's the coaches favorite since he never makes the same mistake twice, he's been a captain since his sophomore season, and he's a player everyone in the locker room looks to for advice. The athleticism, speed, and intelligence that made him a top cornerback allows him to diagnose plays as the Patriots single-high safety and make cuts on the ball.
McCourty's range allows the Patriots to keep an extra player in the box, whether to cover a tight end, or help against the run. The Patriots defense can't function without him.
He doesn't really have any weaknesses in his game, which is a huge benefit for the Patriots. He's a top three safety in the game, along with Earl Thomas and Eric Weddle, and will likely fetch a contract in that neighborhood of $8 million per season.
The Broncos took Rahim Moore in the second round of the draft in Jack Del Rio's first season as defensive coordinator. After a rocky rookie season appearing in 15 games and starting 7, he amassed one interception and just 2 passes defended. He improved quite a bit in his second season as the fulltime starter with 1 interception, 7 passes defended and 72 combined tackles.
He too is a free safety and has at times played both the run and the pass quite well. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just 0.25 yards per coverage snap which was among the lowest in the NFL.
Though injuries cut short his 2013 campaign, he left Del Rio with a lasting impression in 2014 with 5 turnovers on a career high 4 interceptions and a forced fumble with fumble recovery. He added 6 passes defended. He grew up in Los Angeles and attended UCLA for college so coming to Oakland would be somewhat of a homecoming for him. Add the fact that he's just 25 years old, and what else do you want in free agent target?
Allen wouldn't be a top choice by the Raiders, but they could certainly do worse and he would likely come fairly cheap. The former second round pick has played free safety most of his career but has at times also lined up at strong safety for the Eagles. Though his worst season was 2012 which was the one season he played strong safety more than he did free safety.
He, like Rahim Moore, had a career-high 4 interceptions last season. Allen also, oddly enough, had 3 fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. That's called always being around the ball. He is also fairly durable, having missed just six games in his five-year career, and hasn't missed more than a single game in any of the past four seasons.
Here is what Brandon Lee Gowton Bleeding Green Nation had to say about Allen:
The Eagles let Allen test the free agent waters last offseason before bringing him back on a very inexpensive one-year deal. The plan was to have Allen and second-year safety Earl Wolff compete for a starting spot. Wolff failed to impress and Allen won the job. He was a liability at times and merely average at others. He's an upgradeable starter but you could also do worse. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Eagles do the same thing they did last year, which is to let Allen test the market and look for an upgrade. If both sides can't find a resolution, they might be able to agree on another one-year deal.
It may be hard to remember this, but Ron Parker once played for the Raiders. He was originally an undrafted free agent by the Seahawks in 2011, but didn't make the team. He came to the Raiders due in large part to his having run a 4.28 40-yard dash in his Pro Day at Newberry College. When the Seahawks waived him following camp, he was signed the Raiders' practice squad as they cut training camp standout, Sterling Moore.
Both Parker and Moore have had success since that day one replaced the other. For Parker's part, he appeared in just one game for the Raiders - in Houston, the first game after the passing of Al Davis. After that, he was released. He then bounced between the Seahawks and Panthers over two seasons before finally finding a home with the Chiefs in 2013.
After a season in Kansas City as a reserve corner and special teamer, he switched to safety in 2014 and had his best NFL season, starting 15 games, 12 at free safety.
He is a lot like Brandian Ross, to be honest. Same height (6-0), same struggles early in their career as corners until finding a niche at free safety last season. The main difference between the two is speed. Ross ran a 4.54 40 compared to Parker's 4.28. Parker is also ten pounds heavier. This means if he were to be brought in it would be a last resort to compete with Ross for the job at free safety next season.
Here is what Joel Thorman of Arrowhead Pride had to say about Parker:
Parker is a versatile member of the secondary. He started off as a cornerback for the Chiefs where he played average at best. Then Eric Berry was diagnosed and so Parker took his spot. Safety is where Parker thrived as a replacement for Berry. It was like night and day at times to see him at safety vs. his time at corner. He understood how to keep everything in front of him and helped the Chiefs eliminate the big plays in the passing game. He's a solid player who could command around $5 million per year. Despite the uncertainty surrounding Berry, this is far enough down their list of priorities that I would bet Parker is gone.