The dog days of summer are upon us as NFL teams gear for upcoming training camps later this month. One of those teams resides in the sweltering desert of Nevada, but heat is exactly what the Las Vegas Raiders need.
The Silver & Black are all about competition and if the team truly wants to get the most out of battles for starting roles and snaps, they should stoke those flames with veteran free agents. There’s still quality talent in the free agency pool and the Raiders would be wise to take a dip.
One of those names available is cornerback Marcus Peters. A brash defensive back who brings an alpha attitude to a secondary and the production to back it up, Peters would be a big splash to add to a young secondary looking to make its mark. And training camp is ample time for the veteran to mix it up.
Let’s take a look at free agents who can help the Raiders:
Marcus Peters, Cornerback: At 30 years old, some see the eight-year veteran on the downward slope of his career. Even if that’s true, Peters would upgrade the Raiders secondary — which truly harkens the state of the group. Las Vegas is in dire need of an attitude adjustment and a disruptive takeaway artist at corner and Peters definitely has that pedigree with 32-career interceptions and six defensive touchdowns. The cornerback room has potential but is unproven as a whole and adding a veteran like Peters will ramp up the competition exponentially. Which in turn, will be better for everyone in the Raiders’ secondary.
Duron Harmon, Safety: A 16-game starter last season in Las Vegas that finished second in total tackles (86) and tied for first in interceptions with two. Harmon is still every bit cerebral at age 32 even though his physicality may be waning. The Raiders can bring him back before camp to push the safety group and reclaim the role of “closer”. Especially if fifth-round rookie Christopher Smith II isn’t a quick study. Profiling similar to the veteran, Smith has the same traits as Harmon, but who better to refine your skills from the person who has the experience and pedigree?
Kwon Alexander, Linebacker: The depth at middle linebacker is razor thin in Las Vegas. A veteran like Alexander — who has 86 starts in 95 games — adds valuable experience, even if his production is dipping. With Robert Spillane and undrafted free agent Drake Thomas as the starter and backup at the middle linebacker position, Alexander can push both while fighting for snaps or a starting spot. He tackled well and held up in coverage last season for the New York Jets which is a welcome sight for a Raiders linebacker unit that is habitually picked on.
Kyle Van Noy, Linebacker: Able to line up both on the outside as an edge rusher and inside as a middle linebacker, this 32-year-old veteran offers the position versatility the Raiders like. He also not only played for the New England Patriots, he suited up for AFC West foe Los Angeles Chargers this past season producing 46 total tackles and five sacks. With Las Vegas needing more productive depth on the outside and inside, Van Noy can heat up the competition at different linebacker spots.
Dalton Risner, Guard: This mauler of a guard remains available and it’s interesting why he isn’t on a roster and ready to compete for camp. Las Vegas’ depth on the interior offensive line isn’t something to write home about and the nearly 28-year-old four-year veteran can come in right away and make a go for the starting spot at left or right guard. He’s got a finisher’s mentality and power to not only anchor but dominate in the run game. Risner also rarely missed a snap for the Denver Broncos and would make for a domineering option in Silver & Black.
Matthew Ioannidis, Defensive Tackle: The Raiders must get more pressure from the defensive tackle group. Ioannidis can bring that type of interior pass rush. Playing both inside and outside on Washington’s defensive line, the 29-year-old seven-year veteran is looking for a bounce back season after playing for the Carolina Panthers this past year. He’s generated 22 pressures and six hurries to along with 3.5 sacks the past two seasons — something the Raiders are in desperate need of.
Other notable free agents: Trai Turner, Guard; Shelby Harris, Defensive Tackle; George Fant, Right Tackle; Yannick Ngakoue, Edge; Deion Jones, Linebacker
Despite Pro Football Focus painting a bleak picture the Raiders’ future salary cap, NFL teams have shown even the most dire of situations, the cap can be maneuvered around — magically so, just ask the New Orleans Saints.
So while the Raiders only have $2.683-plus million in cap space left, according to OverTheCap, general manager Dave Ziegler and the player personnel crew can create more if inclined to do so.