The Raiders have great confidence in rookie Damon Arnette as a physical talent, competitor and scheme fit.
Adding a veteran after taking the Ohio State product No. 19 overall in the NFL draft doesn’t weaken the previous statement one bit.
The Silver and Black are working to lock up soon-to-be 31-year old Prince Amukamara, a league source said on Tuesday afternoon, and have an agreement on terms but the deal isn’t formally done. NFL Network first reported the news.
That’s a smart move for several reasons. Veteran talent is at a premium these days, especially with offseason programs going virtual and no expectation that on-field work can resume in the near future. Rookies need every second of practice to adjust to a new scheme, new teammates and the NFL game. While Amukamara is also coming in fresh, his nine seasons professional experience will help him adjust.
Even if Arnette’s the long-term answer at one outside cornerback spot, that doesn’t mean he’s the best short-term solution. Last year’s second-round draft pick Trayvon Mullen established himself as a rookie starter, but it took half a season to earn that spot and make it easy to ship Gareon Conley to Houston.
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Amukamara has the size required to play the Raiders scheme, and while he’s not a ball hawk with 10 interceptions in nine seasons, he has a 89.6 passer rating allowed when targeted in his career and has 43 career pass breakups.
His numbers got a bit worse last season in Chicago, but they weren’t anywhere close to bad. His 14.3-yards per reception allowed wasn’t great and marks a career-worst since his rookie year.
Amukamara was, ironically enough, the No. 19 overall pick by the New York Giants way back in 2011. He didn’t play much his rookie season but became a consistent starter after that despite moving around some in his career.
Arnette will be given a chance to compete and secure the starting cornerback job, but adding Amukamara gives the Raiders a quality option to evaluate and possibly fall back on if the rookie takes some time adjusting to the NFL game.
The Raiders are expected to play Mullen at one outside cornerback slot and Lamarcus Joyner in the slot. Johnathan Abram will man one safety spot, with Damarious Randall in to battle incumbent Erik Harris and newcomer Jeff Heath for the free safety gig.
There’s heavy competition for reserve cornerback spots with largely unproven second-year pros Isaiah Johnson and Keisean Nixon in the mix with veteran Nevin Lawson.
Fourth-round pick Amik Robertson shouldn’t be discounted as a presence in the slot or on the outside. That’s a crowded position group a major question mark at cornerback.
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The Raiders took some pressure off Arnette with this move, so they don’t have to force him or another young player into the starting lineup in Week 1 if they’re not completely ready and missing his first full-time offseason program.
This veteran signing comes a bit more than a month after Eli Apple’s one-year, $6 million pact fell apart over a physical. The Raiders addressed cornerback twice in the draft after that and again on Tuesday trying to provide options, quality and experience into a Raiders secondary that stands as the biggest defensive question mark at this point.