The Raiders enter the new league year with their inaugural Las Vegas season on the horizon and plenty of areas to improve.
Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock will once again look to do damage in the NFL draft, where the Raiders have five picks in the top 92. The Silver and Black also have over $50 million in salary cap room to play with in free agency. Most of that should be allocated to fixing a defense that bordered on offensive at times, with their secondary surrendering 33 touchdowns and 256.7 yards through the air per game.
The Raiders liked what they saw out of cornerback Trayvon Mullen, who showed shutdown capability toward the end of the year. They hope to get a full year of safety Johnathan Abram, who tore his rotator cuff in Week 1 and never was seen again.
With money to play with, the Raiders should spend big on their secondary, taking that from a point of weakness to a strength before turning their attention to the other two levels of their defense.
The Raiders largely whiffed in free agency a season ago, with right tackle Trent Brown being the only surefire winner. That won't stop them from going hunting, and defensive backs Byron Jones and Anthony Harris should be their main targets to save a leaky secondary.
Byron Jones, CB
Last season, the Raiders ranked dead last in Expected Points Added (EPA) per pass allowed. They were last in 2018 as well. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther needs another solid corner opposite Mullen, and Jones is the best cornerback on the market in this free-agent class.
After bouncing around secondary positions for a few years, Jones has shined at outside corner for the Dallas Cowboys since 2018. Last season, Jones had a forced incompletion rate of 15.1 percent, good for 22nd in the NFL. He also held opponents to 11 yards per reception last season. Jones, 27, has elite coverage skills and a high football IQ. His lack of takeaways might seem to be a red flag, but that could change in a different scheme.
Jones likely will come with a high price tag ($16 million per year), but that's a price worth paying for an elite press corner. Jones allowed just 0.39 yards per coverage snap last season. That was the second-lowest in the NFL. Daryl Worley, who Jones would be replacing, ranked last.
The Raiders won't be the only team going after Jones, as the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and others are expected to be in the running. But the Raiders can give him the contract he covets and should, giving them two lockdown corners for the next handful of years.
Anthony Harris, S
When Abram went down last season in Week 1, the Raiders' secondary was thrown into flux and never fully recovered. Joseph played well at the opposite safety before going on IR after Week 10.
Curtis Riley was an abject disaster in coverage. Lamarcus Joyner, who seems better suited to play deep, stayed at slot corner and was underwhelming. Erik Harris was solid after being inserted in the lineup, but he isn't a long-term solution.
Enter: Anthony Harris.
The Minnesota Vikings safety is an interception king. He has as many picks (nine) dating back to Week 6 of the 2018 season as the Raiders did all of last year. Over the last two seasons, Harris has nine interceptions, seven pass breakups and only has missed four of his 100 tackle attempts.
He also has the highest two-year coverage grade for any safety, via Pro Football Focus.
Harris is a versatile playmaker who can play in the box, cover in the slot or play deep safety. The ability to wear multiple hats is something that should appeal to Gruden and Guenther.
Last season, the Raiders ranked 30th in passing defense per DVOA and 29th in interceptions. They have to find a way to stop explosive plays and get off the field on third down.
Harris can help with both of those, giving Abram a dynamic safety partner to gel with as the franchise moves to Las Vegas.
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The Raiders need to evaluate each and every position on their team. Outside of Mullen, Abram, Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell, the defense needs a complete overhaul. They can, and should, look to address the linebacker hole in the draft, and can add to the defensive line with some cheaper veteran options.
The big-spending should come on Jones and Harris, allowing the Raiders to have their secondary set for the next five years.