Luckily for Gruden, he might have a few top 10 picks to help the position over the next few seasons and the 2019 NFL free agency class could be loaded with talented pass rushers.
Jadeveon Clowney, Ezekiel Ansah, Demarcus Lawrence, Frank Clark, and Dante Fowler Jr. are among the notable names that might be available during next year’s free agency.
However, there are more low-key targets like Aaron Lynch and Romeo Okwara that will likely be available as well.
I am not sure if Oakland will only look to target veterans at the position, a mix, or just young guys because the team is obviously rebuilding but Gruden likes to get old at every position.
As such, here are my three targets that the Raiders should go after in free agency in order of interest.
Clark is having one of his best seasons yet with 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles just eight games into the season.
Oakland fans have seen how Clark can tear apart a game plan with his 2.5 sacks against Derek Carr and the offense.
More than that, Clark is just 25 years old and has played in at least 15 games in each of his first three seasons.
While it is unlikely that Seattle would let Clark slip through its fingers, he would be an ideal pass rusher to land considering his production, availability and age.
Clark could be better against the run so he probably won’t garner elite-level pass rusher money and instead be around the $15 million range which is completely affordable without Mack on the roster.
It would be ironic if the Raiders ended up with Clowney. Remember, Clowney went number one in the same draft as Mack who went number five. And everyone knows which player turned out better.
However, Clowney is no slouch when on the field. He has had better luck staying healthy recently playing in all but three games over the past 2.5 seasons.
With the recent availability, Clowney is on pace to have his first double-digit sack season and is on an upwards trend.
In addition, Clowney is a stout run defender, unlike Clark, and would provide a well-rounded presence on the edge that is badly needed on the Oakland defense.
It is possible that Clowney will see a bidding war on the open market for his services. That could slightly inflate his price, but the Raiders can’t be too picky. They need talent and Clowney is a great/young one.
There are still others out there that would be intriguing additions like Fowler, Brandon Graham, Ansah and Lawrence, but Lynch could be a nice number two that could come at more of a bargain than the other names.
Lynch is great against the run but also provides pressure on the edge. He isn’t a dominant pass rusher, just three sacks through eight games, but he will set the edge and can be a good robin to a batman.
Furthermore, the Chicago defense has a lot of great players already, including Mack, which might make it hard for them to keep someone like Lynch.
Lynch would be an under-the-radar signing, but he is only 25 years old and is an all around player.
It wouldn’t be great if Lynch was the only edge defender signed, but if Oakland adds him while drafting/signing another big name, it would be an intelligent decision.
It is great that there will be a plethora of talent at the position to go after in March, but does it really matter?
If the Raiders’ climate doesn’t change by then, the only way Oakland will be able to land premier pass rushers will be through the draft or by overpaying talent. But so far, Gruden has not been willing to pay anyone.