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Raiders: Post-free agency depth chart

Who’s starting and who’s riding the bench?

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Cleveland Browns
Brandon Parker, Alex Leatherwood
Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels have certainly made their marks on the Las Vegas Raiders roster.

As things stand, the Raiders are projected to have seven new starters, not including players like Divine Deablo and Denzelle Good, who only made a few starts last season, and almost an entirely new crop of backups, especially defensively.

While Ziegler and McDaniels are not done yet and could land one more big fish in free agency, the bulk of their signings are over so let’s take a look and see how the depth chart is shaping up.

Quarterback

Starter: Derek Carr

Backup: Garrett Gilbert

Baring a snag in the extension talks that picked up not too long ago, Carr will likely be the Raiders’ starting quarterback for at least a few more seasons. The typical drama and speculation about Las Vegas moving on from him has been quiet this offseason, and McDaniels is “trying to build around” Carr, per The Athletic’s Vic Tafur. In other words, the longest-tenured Raider is here to stay.

However, the backup spot is an interesting one. Las Vegas can do better than Gilbert with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith and Cam Newton still available. They could even draft someone in the later rounds to compete with Gilbert, so this is one position I don’t think they’re done addressing.

Running back

Starter: Josh Jacobs

Backups: Kenyan Drake, Brandon Bolden, Ameer Abdullah and Trey Ragas

With the Drake and Josh combo leading the way, it’ll be interesting to see what direction McDaniels goes with the third — and maybe even fourth — running back spot. Bolden and Abdullah are more of the receiving backs while Ragas is closer to a traditional runner, so the last seat in the position room could ultimately come down to play style.

As far as any additions go, I’d be surprised to see them make any more significant moves at running back. They might add a camp body or two, but this bunch should be the main crew heading into training camp.

Tight End

Starter: Darren Waller

Backups: Foster Moreau, Jacob Hollister and Nick Bowers

Again, not much movement is expected at the top between now and September, but the second tight end spot could get interesting. Moreau hasn’t been the same since the nasty knee injury he suffered as a rookie and will be playing on a contract year, and Hollister has experience playing for McDaniels. Bowers also played well during the preseason last year, and I also wouldn’t be surprised to see them add another tight end in the draft. Albeit, the latter would be difficult with only one pick on Days 1 and 2 and only five picks overall.

Wide Receiver

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders
Hunter Renfrow
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Starters: Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow

Backups: Bryan Edwards, Demarcus Robinson, Mack Hollins, Dillon Stoner, Tyron Johnson, DJ Turner

The “starters” can be somewhat ambiguous and could vary game to game, depending on what personnel McDaniels wants to lean on, so Edwards could get bumped up. That being said, the third wide receiver battle will be one to watch during training camp since the 2020 third-round pick hasn’t cemented his spot on the depth chart. Robinson and Hollins are a couple of veterans who have filled similar roles in the past, and Johnson brings a lot of speed to the table that could compliment Adams, Renfrow and Waller well.

Offensive Line

Starters: Kolton Miller, Denzelle Good, Andre James, Alex Leatherwood, Brandon Parker

Backups: Kamaal Seymour, Alex Bars, Lester Cotton, Brett Heggie, Hroniss Grasu, Jermaine Eluemunor, Jordan Meredith, Jackson Barton

Here’s where things get really interesting offensively, and my starters projection is admittedly very fluid.

Probably the biggest mystery, and the key to unlocking how the rest of the line will look, is what the coaching staff is going to do with Leatherwood. McDaniels recently hinted at sliding him back outside to tackle, but the coach was still noncommittal, stating: “We’re going to try to give him an opportunity to earn a role that’s his best fit and that’s the best fit for the Raiders.”

No decisions need to be made in March — or until September for that matter — so the right side of the line could look very different than it does now. This would be another spot where I’d expect Ziegler and Co. to add at least one more starting candidate via the draft or a late free-agent signing.

Fullback

Starter: Jakob Johnson

Backup: Sutton Smith

Like the wide receivers, “starter” is a bit of a loose term here and whoever wins the job could see their playing time vary from week to week. Johnson likely has the upper hand having played for McDaniels, but this will be another training camp battle to keep tabs on and the loser will likely be updating their resume.

EDGE

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders
Maxx Crosby
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Starters: Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones

Backups: Kyler Fackrell, Malcolm Koonce, Clelin Ferrell and Gerri Green

With about $150 million handed out to the top two earlier this month, I think it’s safe to say the starters are locked in place. But the battle between Fackrell and Koonce for the first guy off the bench will be a fun one to watch.

Is Ferrell an edge in new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s system? We’ll have to wait and find out as he might be better suited for the interior.

Again, it will be tough with a limited amount of picks, but I could see Las Vegas drafting another player to throw in the mix, too. I wouldn’t place any money on that, but I also wouldn’t rule that scenario out.

Defensive tackle

Starters: Bilal Nichols and Vernon Butler

Backups: Kyle Peko, Andrew Billings and Kendal Vickers

No position group has seen more year-to-year turnover than defensive tackle for the Silver and Black. Vickers, who played in one game for a total of 19 defensive snaps, is the only holdover from last season. Nichols is the only one who I would consider to have a starting spot “locked up”, and there is a fine line between the guys who will be competing for starting and roster spots.

I have to imagine the decision with the 86th overall pick will come down to either an offensive lineman or defensive tackle, and the position that doesn’t get addressed will be back on the table with No. 126.

Linebacker

Starters: Denzel Perryman, Divine Deablo and Jayon Brown

Backups: Micah Kiser and Justin March-Lillard

Linebacker is the defensive equivalent to wide receiver and fullback, the “starters” are ambiguous and could vary game to game. Graham does seem to prefer nickel personnel which would slide Brown down into the backups category, though he and Deablo will likely have a training camp competition for the first-string role.

This is another position where the Raiders might add someone later in the draft and will almost certainly add some camp bodies, but the foundation seems to be pretty steadily in place.

Safety

NFL: OCT 17 Raiders at Broncos
Tre’von Moehrig
Photo by Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Starters: Tre’von Moehrig and Johnathan Abram

Backups: Duron Harmon, Roderic Teamer, Tyree Gillespie and Dallin Leavitt

It’ll be interesting to see how Graham deploys his safeties. The addition of Harmon gives him two players who can execute the two-high coverages that took the NFL by storm last season, and Abram can have a Jabril Peppers-type of role as almost a hybrid linebacker. Beyond that, watching a healthy Gillespie continue to develop and possibly step up into a contributing role in year two is probably the next most intriguing storyline.

Safety is another position I could see the Raiders addressing in the draft, but likely with one of their later picks. Either way, the crux of the position group is already in the building.

Cornerback

Starters: Trayvon Mullen and Rock Ya-Sin

Backups: Nate Hobbs, Anthony Averett, Amik Robertson, Darius Phillips and Cre’von LeBlanc

Move Hobbs up if the team starts in nickel, and McDaniels is leaving the door open for Hobbs to take some reps on the outside this year as well. Mullen and Ya-Sin should have little to no problems being the Week 1 starters unless Averett has a good camp and Robertson basically does a 180-degree turn.

There should be some interesting battles for roster spots in this position group, especially since I’d expect Las Vegas to target another corner at some point in the draft.