As recently voted on by the fans, Cornerback is the Raiders most critical need. They could potentially be looking at a complete makeover of their top three cornerbacks. David Amerson was cut a month ago, Sean Smith could be next, and TJ Carrie will be a free agent Wednesday.
That group was overall one of the worst in the league last season. The question is, how much of those issues were coaching related? Could new DB coach Derrick Ansley and DC Paul Guenther get better results? You’d have to think so considering in ten games last season with Ken Norton Jr in charge of the defensive play calling, they didn’t intercept the ball once, setting a new NFL record to start a season.
They did that while 2017 top pick Gareon Conley was on injured reserve. Having him in the fold will help, but upgrades are coming.
Option 1: Free Agency + Re-sign
Top priority is the top free agent cornerback, Trumaine Johnson. But should another suitor jump in an outbid the Raiders for his services, the market is chock-full of solid cornerbacks, they could just move onto the next or the next or the next. I’m not sure I’ve seen a free agent market with so many talented cornerbacks in it. The next three potential targets are Malcolm Butler, Prince Amukamara, Bashaud Breeland, and Patrick Robinson to name a few. And the Giants just released Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Hell, if they wanted to take a shot at Kyle Fuller, they can. The Bears would have the right to match the deal, but any team could try if they wanted. This is the year to add a free agent corner.
Any addition would likely come with the release of Sean Smith, leaving the team with just two starters along with Conley unless they re-sign TJ Carrie. Therefore adding a free agent and keeping Carrie from becoming one would give them their top three corners.
Option 2: Free Agency + Draft
Should they sign one of the above free agents, cut Sean Smith, and let Carrie leave as a free agent, they will still have just two starters and no depth. That also means no slot corner in a passing league. That can’t happen. A wrinkle here would be adding a slot corner like Patrick Robinson to replace Carrie and then keeping Sean Smith (at least for now). Then they’d still be looking at the potential of Sean Smith being suspended by the NFL for his alleged assault.
The mere fact that Sean Smith is even still on the team would suggest they are waiting until they have a replacement for him before they cut him. If that doesn’t come in free agency, it would come in the draft. Depending on how they go about filling their other needs, that could be their top pick. If not, it’s a deep enough class that there is a chance a talented cornerback is still on the board with their pick at 41 in the second round.