The Raiders’ need for a pass rusher isn’t as glaring as it was last year when they came off of a season with a NFL-low 13 sacks.
The defense showed more spunk when it came to breathing down the quarterback’s neck in 2019. Oakland had 32 sacks in 2019, which was the 25th most in the NFL — improvement was made, but in the grand scheme, it was still lacking.
They were led by exciting rookie Maxx Crosby. With 10 sacks, the defensive end showed he was one of the absolute steals of the 2019 draft as a fourth-round pick.
Crosby has a chance to improve to the 15-sack range this year if he stays healthy and continues to develop under new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. Fellow second-year defensive end Clelin Ferrell had 4.5 sacks and the goal will be to improve that number. Still, he may never be a consistent sack artist. Also, the Raiders got seven sacks out of Benson Mayowa, whose playing time dipped late in the season and who may leave in free agency.
So, the Raiders still need to add a pass rusher or two. It may not be a pressing need like at linebacker and at receiver, but there is a pass-rush need for sure.
This is a so-so free-agent class for pass rushers and it isn’t great in the draft, either (last year’s draft class was fantastic for sack artists).
But there are some names the Raiders could look at in free agency. Let’s check it out:
Jadeveon Clowney: He is the biggest prize on this list and he is clearly the most talented, but will also be the most expensive. That’s scary — if I was running the Raiders, I’d let someone else take him. It’s like a talented, but risky player in the draft. Clowney has missed 21 games in his six-season career due to injury and he has just 32 sacks. He is a good all-around player, but the injuries and lack of sacks are concerning.
Everson Griffen: The USC product has spent his entire 10-year career with the Vikings and he could soon hit the market. With eight sacks last year, Griffen, now 32, could be a nice veteran mentor for Crosby if he isn’t too expensive.
Dante Fowler: The former No. 3 overall draft pick broke out last season with a career-high 11.5 sacks. Sacks sell — he will make money and I bet he gets a big deal. But just as injuries scare me, so does sudden production in a contract year. Fowler had 16 sacks combined in his first four seasons before is huge 2019 production.
Jason Pierre-Paul: He would offer similar appeal as Griffen. He is 31 and he has 79.5 career sacks. He had 8.5 sacks for Tampa Bay last season. He may be fairly reasonable. This wouldn’t be a bad option.
Robert Quinn: The Raiders should be interested. Quinn, who turns 30 in May, played for Rod Marinelli in Dallas and had 11.5 sacks last season. He’s had double-digit sacks in four of his nine NFL seasons ... he could get paid a lot. But I can see Marinelli pushing Jon Gruden to get this done. And we all know Gruden has listened to his assistant coaches in free agency in the past two offseason.
Conclusion: There’s some real options here. Are they season-changing? Maybe not, but many of these players would fit with the Raiders and help Crosby and Ferrell, which would be valuable.