Raiders

Raiders can address safety position through loaded NFL free-agent class

Raiders

The Raiders need some safety help. Karl Joseph is expected to lock down one spot but needs a partner pretty badly.

Reggie Nelson and Marcus Gilchrist aren’t expected back, leaving a void at the free safety spot the Silver and Black can fill in several different ways.

They can attack the position via the NFL draft, with restricted free agent Erik Harris expected back as an experienced option should a young player not be ready.

Or … the Raiders could jump on an ever-expanding free-agent market loaded with talented veterans.

Eric Weddle joined it yesterday after Baltimore released him. Landon Collins is set for it after the New York Giants didn’t franchise tag him.

They’re now part of a loaded free-agent class that including Earl Thomas, Adrian Amos, LaMarcus Joyner, Tyrann Mathieu, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Tre Boston and Kenny Vaccaro.

Adding a veteran presence to a young secondary that includes presumptive starters in Joseph and cornerbacks Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley -- he’s expected to return via restricted free agency -- would help keep the group operating well.

Weddle told The Athletic he plans to take some free-agent visits this week, and possibly sign -- players cut can sign with new teams right away -- before unrestricted free agency begins for those on expiring contracts on March 13.

[RELATED: How Raiders should handle pass rushers in free agency]

The Raiders were interested in Weddle back in 2015, the last time he was on the free-agent market. That was a different time with different decision makers, so it’s uncertain how Jon Gruden views him, but there’s no doubting Weddle can still be an impactful player and leader on the back end -- even at age 34.

 

There are younger options available who can play deep safety, and their talent and market price will be compared to draft-eligible options in the early and middle rounds.

Collins is a popular name, but should cost a pretty penny and is known as a box safety. The Raiders need someone with versatility, especially someone comfortable playing deep.

A ball hawk is needed and Thomas is the best in the group, but could be prohibitively expensive considering his injury history. Mathieu is another attractive option who might be too costly to realistically acquire.

Amos is an excellent player worthy of strong consideration. He’s only 26 and has solid all-around skills, even though his interception count hasn’t been high.

Clinton-Dix is another serviceable option who can help on the back end.

The glut of free agents could drive the price down for some, making someone just below the top flight affordable and attractive to a Raiders team looking to get younger while adding some leadership to the defensive side.