The Las Vegas Raiders reconstructed their defensive line position group this offseason, with the hopes of making it one of the deepest spots on the roster.
Las Vegas added three veterans in free agency and signed promising undrafted free agent Darius Stills. They appeared set. Yet suddenly last week, the Raiders signed veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
What does the McCoy addition mean? Are the Raiders less than thrilled with their new-look defensive tackles?
Sources said that is not really the case. But the truth is Raiders coach Jon Gruden is always interested in adding veterans who have had success in the league and he truly values 3-technique players, which McCoy has been dominant at in his career.
But the reality is, the addition of McCoy will likely mean less playing time or even a lost job of someone at the position. That, of course, is reliant on McCoy staying healthy and showing the Raiders this month he is still worthy of a roster spot.
If that happens, who will it affect?
There have been reports that incumbent Johnathan Hankins and free-agent addition Quinton Jefferson will start. So they seem safe. Free-agent Solomon Thomas could move outside some with McCoy in the mix. Whatever the case, if he can stay healthy, Thomas should make the team even if it’s in a rotational role.
It would be unlikely that the Raiders carry more than five defensive tackles, and they could do with just four. So, it’s Hankins, Jefferson, Thomas and McCoy make the 53-man roster, that will likely only leave room for one more defensive tackle at the most.
That leaves incumbent Kendal Vickers, free-agent Darius Philon and Stills as players who have a solid chance to make the team at the position.
Vickers flashed at times last season, but he may be the type of fringe player, teams look to upgrade from. Philon played for new Las Vegas defensive coordinator Gus Bradley with the Chargers. Philon has juice, but he hasn’t played in three years. Still, the Raiders were high on him. Still was excellent in the offseason program, but he had been injured. He could be headed to the practice squad.
If McCoy does make the team, it will be wild fight for a roster spot between Vickers, Philon and Stills. It will be a storyline of the preseason.