We’re about two weeks into free agency and while the Las Vegas Raiders can still make some moves — we’re all waiting, Stephon Gilmore — their 2022 signings are mostly complete, or at least the ones of most significance.
While of course, the guys who got paid are “winners”, every transaction has some subsidiary impact on players who are currently on the roster or were donning the Silver and Black last season. The same logic applies to any positions that the team didn’t address or make a huge push for on the open market.
So, beyond the new guys whose bank accounts got a big boost, which Raiders have benefited the most during free agency, and who has taken the biggest hits?
WINNER: Dave Ziegler
We’ll start things off with the man in charge who was handing out those big checks.
As a rookie general manager, it can be tough to win over a fanbase as skepticism will always exist with a new guy, especially one that doesn’t have a robust resume. However, executing a blockbuster trade for arguably the best receiver in the NFL, which simultaneously fills one of the team’s biggest needs is a decent way to get people on your side. Adding in a Hall of Fame-caliber pass rusher doesn’t hurt either.
Now, the challenge for Ziegler is to find a way to fill the other holes on the roster with mid- and late-round picks, but there’s no denying he’s off to a fast start about two months into the job.
LOSER: Johnathan Hankins
The Raiders entered the offseason with only a couple of defensive tackles under contract, creating a large need at the position. They’ve brought in several new players to fill that void, however, Hankins has not been one of them.
One of Las Vegas’ first moves of the offseason was signing Andrew Billings, who shares a skill set similar to Hankins. They’re both good run defenders who don’t bring much to the table as pass rushers, and now it’s looking like the former was brought in to replace the latter. Even if Billings wasn’t the nail in Hankins’ coffin, the signings of Vernon Butler and Kyle Peko likely are.
The nine-year veteran is still available and turns 30-years-old in a few days, so it looks like he’s entering the twilight of his career.
WINNER: Derek Carr
Carr made no secret about who he wanted the organization to go after this offseason, Davante Adams. Ziegler and Co. found a way to make it happen and got their quarterback what he wanted. Reuniting the college teammates and giving Carr one of the best weapons in the league should pay dividends from him on the field, but it also should help fatten his wallet.
Locking in Adams for at least three years should mean that the organization will do the same or something similar with his best friend and top recruiter. Shortly after the news about the wideout broke, The Athletic’s Vic Tafur tweeted that extension talks between Carr and the Raiders have begun. It’s also hard to imagine the team’s starting quarterback will get anything less than $40 million a year, seeing as they’re paying their top wide receiver a shade under $30 million annually.
LOSER: Jalen Richard
When Josh McDaniels got the head coach job, it looked like Richard might have a decent-sized role on the team. During McDaniels tenure as offensive coordinator, the Patriots loved to use multiple running backs, especially the ones that could contribute in the passing game as Richard can.
While we did find out during free agency that the Raiders' new head coach still has an affinity to those types of backs, it doesn’t appear that the six-year veteran is in the coach’s plans.
McDaniels brought Brandon Bolden over with him from New England and signed Ameer Abdullah to compliment Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake. Also, Drake restructured his contract, further suggesting that Richard’s tenure with the Raiders is coming to a close.
WINNER: Malcolm Koonce
Koonce immediately moved up the depth chart when Las Vegas released Carl Nassib. Losing reps to Nassib and Clelin Ferrell as a backup defensive end stunted his growth and limited him to just 48 defensive snaps for all last season. However, it looks like that will change in year two.
Also, the 2021 third-round pick gained another mentor during free agency. No disrespect to Yannick Ngakoue, but Koonce can probably learn a little more from a potential Hall of Famer like Chandler Jones.
Granted, Koonce will face some competition this summer with Kyler Fackrell coming to Vegas, but Fackrell playing on the veteran minimum will be easier to part ways with than Nassib was with his contract. In other words, there is a clearer path for the Buffalo product to hold down the third edge spot heading into this season.
LOSER: Backup QB
Granted, backup quarterback is a position that everyone hopes the team never has to use, but the Raiders are lacking options if Carr does go down.
With Marcus Mariota headed to Atlanta, Vegas signed Garrett Gilbert who has some familiarity with McDaniels system and the organization. However, Gilbert only has eight games of NFL experience and will be 31-years-old in July, so he lacks the experience that a veteran should offer and doesn’t possess the upside that a younger passer would. Also, Las Vegas missed out on Trevor Siemian, a solid backup option with 29 career starts, who met with the team this past week but opted to sign with the Bears.
There are a handful of second-string QBs still available on the open market, so Ziegler and McDaniels might not be done, but time’s a tickin’.
WINNER: Brandon Parker
Admittedly, I’m somewhat breaking my rule here by talking about a guy who got paid, but Parker falls more in the category of benefitting from the Raiders’ inactivity. A lot of people, myself included, thought they’d bring in at least one veteran offensive lineman to fix one of the team’s biggest weaknesses from last season, especially at right tackle. However, Parker is the most notable name they brought in.
With a one-year, $3.5 million deal, he’s not exactly breaking the bank, but the four-year pro currently projects to be the team’s starter at right tackle. Sure, a late-March projection doesn’t mean much, but to go from expendable to starter in a matter of weeks is quite the swing.
LOSER: Amik Robertson
When the Raiders drafted Robertson in the fourth round a few offseasons ago, he was widely considered a steal and someone who could be a starter down the road. However, he struggled as a rookie and got a chance to start after Travyon Mullen’s injury last year, but ended up paying his way onto the bench.
The Louisiana Tech product’s stock was already low heading into 2022, and to make matters worse, the Raiders have been active in the cornerback market this month. They traded for Rock Ya-Sin, who is expected to be a first-stringer, and signed Anthony Averett and Darius Phillips for rotational options as well.
While he still has a chance to prove himself during training camp, Robertson has undoubtedly been pushed further down the depth chart during free agency.
WINNER: Tre’von Moehrig
Admittedly, Moehrig is probably the weakest winner out of everyone else on this list. That being said, the addition of Duron Harmon could help increase Moehrig’s role.
Last year, the Silver and Black didn’t have another legitimate deep safety on the roster, so the former Horned Frog had to drop back and take on that responsibility on just about every play. While that is a big part of his skill set, he throve playing in a more versatile role at TCU.
Adding Harmon, who has played over 5,300 snaps as an NFL free safety, should help expand Moehrig’s role on the defense and allow him to shine even more than he did last season.