Raiders

Former Raiders free-agent target signs in NFC West

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Former Raiders free-agent target signs in NFC West

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Decades ago, the Los Angeles Rams’ defense was fronted by the Fearsome Foursome.

With Ndamukong Suh playing alongside Aaron Donald for the Rams this fall, NFL offenses are about to experience a terrifying twosome.

Suh agreed to a one-year contract with Los Angeles on Monday, joining three-time All-Pro Donald in a remarkable defensive line pairing.

Suh was released by the Dolphins this month after three seasons in Miami. He examined several free-agent opportunities before choosing the defending NFC West champion Rams, who have revamped their already solid defense with several impressive offseason additions.

Suh’s deal in Los Angeles is worth $14 million, according to the NFL Network and ESPN.

Suh was a five-time Pro Bowl selection during his eight-year career with Detroit and Miami. Despite a history of physical play on the edge of legality and sportsmanship, he is considered one of the NFL’s most impressive defensive linemen, with 51 1/2 career sacks and excellent run-stopping ability. He also has never missed a game due to injury.

With Suh and Donald playing side by side, the Rams will have a superb foundation for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme. Suh, who likely will play nose tackle, and steady veteran Michael Brockers are expected to start up front alongside Donald, the AP’s Defensive Player of the Year and a four-time Pro Bowl selection.

The 31-year-old Suh has never played in a 3-4 alignment during his NFL career, but Phillips specializes in finding ways for outstanding players to shine. He is also much less likely to face double teams as a pass rusher while lining up with Donald in a partnership that will stretch most opponents’ blocking abilities to the limit.

Suh visited New Orleans and Tennessee during his free agency tour, and he was scheduled to visit Oakland before canceling last week. He attracted serious interest from the New York Jets, but they publicly rescinded their contract offer Sunday.

Instead, the Rams won over Suh last week after a visit to their training complex and a dinner in Malibu with a front-office group including coach Sean McVay and owner Stan Kroenke.

Suh likely could have made more money with the Titans or Jets, but the Rams are widely considered a team on the rise — and Suh has never won a playoff game despite strong individual performances in each of his three postseason appearances.

With Suh’s arrival on a lucrative one-year deal, the Rams have signaled their determination to compete for the Super Bowl immediately.

Los Angeles has revamped its defense with proven talent in an effort to raise its performance to the level of McVay’s offense, which led the NFL with 478 points last season in a stunning worst-to-first transformation.

Earlier this month, Los Angeles added cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, who have been selected for a combined seven Pro Bowls, while retaining promising safety Lamarcus Joyner and slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman.

Suh is an Oregon native who starred at Nebraska before joining the Lions as the second overall pick in the 2010 draft. He became the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history at the time of his six-year, $114 million free-agent deal with the Dolphins.

Suh has repeatedly drawn the ire of opponents and officials with overaggressive play and dirty hits. He has paid numerous fines, yet his only NFL suspension was a two-game ban in 2011 during his second season for stomping on Packers lineman Evan Smith.

Talib and Peters also have been involved in their own scuffles with opponents or their own teammates and coaches. McVay’s first Rams team had no significant issues in the locker room, with the young head coach and his veteran defensive coordinator presiding over a roster with solid chemistry.

Five new Raiders with something to prove in 2018 season

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Five new Raiders with something to prove in 2018 season

The Raiders are taking some time off during the dead period of the NFL offseason. Even early bird Jon Gruden is slapping the snooze button these days, spending some quality time with family before training camp cranks up later this month.

Coaches and players are still finding time for work, sometimes while they’re on vacation. The Raiders want to hit the ground running this preseason, with many motivated to show well in silver and black. That’s especially true for a large class of new Raiders, many of whom hope to silence detractors.

Here are five newcomers with plenty to prove in 2018:

5. CB Rashaan Melvin

Lists like this are normally reserved for guys coming off injuries or down years. Melvin doesn’t fit that mold. The 28-year old had his best year in 2017, often shutting down top receivers as Indy’s top cornerback. He allowed a paltry 60.3 passer rating when targeted, with three picks, 10 passes defensed and just two touchdowns allowed.

Those stats didn’t produce a robust free-agent market. Melvin ended up signing a one-year, $5.5 million deal with Oakland, and is now working to show he’s not a one-year wonder and can stay healthy for 16 games. An ovation-worthy encore would surely earn a long-term, bigger-money deal.

Melvin made his motivation clear on Twitter a few weeks back.

4. WR Jordy Nelson

Nelson had a down year in 2017. It started well, with six touchdowns in the first four games he played. Then all-world Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down, and things hit the skids. He averaged just 9.1 yards per reception, and didn’t score after that early flurry.

That led some to say Nelson lost a step at age 32 he would not recover. The Packers asked him to take a massive pay cut, and ended up releasing him in March. The Raiders swooped in quickly with a two-year deal and plenty of guaranteed money.

Nelson has been praised for his attention to detail and position-group leadership, and will fit into the starting lineup with Amari Cooper and Martavis Bryant. He had four straight 1,000-yard seasons prior to last year. His worth won’t be defined by a monster statistical year. Reliability, leadership and red-zone performance will show if Nelson’s still got it.

3. RB Doug Martin

The veteran rusher has had an uneven career. Excellent production has come in spurts, with dominance in 2012 and 2015. The last 1,400-plus yard season was followed by two seasons of 2.9 yards per carry, which led Tampa Bay to cut his this winter.

He met Gruden for lunch at a Florida golf course, and the exchange convinced Gruden the 29-year old was ready to work and prove he had plenty left in the tank. His work was praised during the offseason program, though practice in pads and preseason play will offer stronger evidence of 2018 effectiveness. Showing well in camp could lead to an increased role behind starter Marshawn Lynch. Gruden likes using multiple backs in his offense, and could make steady contributions in the run game.

2. MLB Derrick Johnson

The longtime Kansas City Chief was let go by the team that drafted him in 2005, but it was not the end of his NFL journey. Some thought he’d call it a career at age 35, especially after suffering an Achilles’ tendon tear in Dec. 2016, but he found a new home in Oakland and a strong bond with Gruden. The Raiders need stability in the middle, and Johnson will provide on-field leadership. There’s no doubt about that.

Johnson must prove capable of being a three-down linebacker effective against the run and pass. Marquel Lee is available should the Raiders require a platoon, but Johnson doesn’t want that. The Raiders need his expertise inside at all times.

1. Head coach Jon Gruden

Gruden isn’t a newcomer, but it’s been nearly two decades since he roamed the silver and black sidelines. He hasn’t coached since 2008, but returned to the Raiders in January after nine years in the broadcast booth.

Gruden has said several times he has something to prove to his critics. That might be a self-motivational tool. There aren’t many in the East Bay, where the fan base as rallied behind him and players have loved the intensity and passion he brings to practice and meetings.

Some assume his old school tendencies and his “bringing it back to 1998” comment this offseason implies he is resistant to change or offensive innovation. That’s not the case, not by a long shot. We’ll see lots modern offense Gruden studied as an ESPN broadcaster and in his downtime at his Tampa offices, with new wrinkles unveiled as game plans dictate.

Gruden has made a solid impression in his return to coaching but, as it always is in his line of work, effectiveness will be determined by wins and losses. He won’t be graded off one-year alone, especially without solid roster depth, but Gruden wants to start fast and re-establish Raiders winning ways.

Raiders CB Gareon Conley files countersuit against woman who accused him of rape

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Raiders CB Gareon Conley files countersuit against woman who accused him of rape

Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley has filed a lawsuit against the woman who accused him of rape in April 2017.

A Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to indict him on criminal charges stemming from an incident in Cleveland less than a month before the 2017 NFL Draft.

Conley deemed the allegations false at the time, and maintained his innocence throughout the process.

His accuser filed a civil suit against Conley on April 6, 2017, seeking $25,000 in damages.

Conley has chosen to file a counter lawsuit, seeking compensation for damage to his reputation, draft stock and endorsement opportunities.

According to court documents obtained by TMZ, he lost an endorsement deal with Nike because of the accusation. He reiterated his innocence in court filings, saying he turned down his accusers advances.

The Ohio State product was considered a top 15 talent heading into the draft, but was ultimately selected No. 24 overall by the Raiders despite the rape accusation.

He missed most of his rookie season with a shin injury that required surgery. He was cleared for full football activity this spring.