There is no doubt the Raiders have a desperate need on the interior defensive line. They have for some time now. Jon Gruden made it clear in his combine press conference last week that among his top priorities was getting help on the interior defensive line to take the pressure off the edge rushers.
It was the lack of interior pressure that had them with the fewest sacks in the league in 2016. It contributed to Khalil Mack’s sack numbers dropping last season last season and the Raiders’ 23rd ranked defense.
Here’s how I see the Raiders handling this need:
Option 1: Draft
Defensive interior is a deep and top heavy position in this draft. Taking one with their top pick is the way to go. The top two options are Washington’s Vita Vea and Michigan’s Maurice Hurst. I personally think Vea would be the better option of the two, but, providing Hurst’s medicals check out – he was flagged for a heart condition at the combine – they really can’t go wrong with either one and one of them (or both) are sure to be on the board at 10 overall. If they go in another direction with their top pick, all the top DT’s could very well be gone by the time they pick in the second round.
Option 2: Free agency + draft
If the Raiders think they can keep Muhammad Wilkerson’s character concerns from getting in the way of his immense talent, he could be just what they need. Other potentially solid free agents include Sheldon Richardson, Dontari Poe, and DaQuan Jones. Even with one of these additions, they could still look to the draft as no interior Dline position on this team is set. It would just make it less of a glaringly obvious need to have already added someone in free agency.
In addition: Re-sign
Bringing back Denico Autry would be a good idea. Even with all the uncertainty in the interior Dline, Autry has been the most consistent player they have. What with part time player Justin Ellis headed for free agency, Mario Edwards Jr’s injury history, Jihad Ward looking like a bust, and Eddie Vanderdoes’s questionable play and ACL tear, they can’t really afford to just let Autry walk away, even if they don’t expect he’ll be the answer they need.