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Raiders free agency 2022: Big changes at defensive tackle

Philosophy change is evident

NFL: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Bilal Nichols
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Thus far, there is no position that has been most affected by the hire of new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham by the Las Vegas Raiders than at defensive tackle.

We’re a week into free agency, and it is is clear there will be major turnover at the position. Of course, it’s not overly shocking because of scheme and the fact that the Raiders’ top defensive tackles were all free agents.

But now that the plan is unfolding it is surely interesting.

Early in free agency, the Raiders brought in Bilal Nichols from the Chicago Bears and he figures to be a top-of-the-rotation defensive tackle and likely be the base nose tackle when the Raiders are in a base 3-4 defense.

Tuesday, the Raiders continued to add to the position by signing Vernon Butler (Buffalo Bills) and Kyle Peko (Tennessee Titans). They also signed Andrew Billings off the street earlier in the offseason. They also have Kendal Vickers, a holdover from last year.

But this position is about Nichols, Butler and Peko. They are bigger pluggers than the previous group of defensive tackles employed in Gus Bradley’s defense.

Quinton Jefferson already left in free agency and Solomon Thomas, Johnathan Hankins, Darius Philon and Gerald McCoy (who missed most of the season with an injury) are free agents. Potentially, Hankins could be brought back because he played for Graham with the New York Giants several years ago.

But this unit might be set. Perhaps the Raiders will add a defensive tackle at some point in the draft, but starting with Nichols, this unit is going to look much different under Graham than it did under Bradley’s guidance.