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

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

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.

Why Raiders should make Emmanuel Sanders priority in NFL free agency

Why Raiders should make Emmanuel Sanders priority in NFL free agency

So, you want to compete with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs? Well, you're going to need a lot more firepower.

Jon Gruden knows that.

In what was Year 1 of a true rebuild for the Raiders following the teardown in 2018, the Silver and Black showed a lot of promise, with a historic draft class leading them to a 7-9 record. The building blocks are being put in place for the Raiders to march up the AFC West pecking order. While another draft-day haul is needed, Gruden knows he doesn't yet have the offensive weapons to contend with Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City. 

Yes, the Raiders have a big question mark at quarterback, but this is about a different area of need -- the team's biggest area of need -- other than the black hole at linebacker. The Raiders need wide receivers. Many of them. They need dynamic playmakers who can stretch the field, make people miss and rack up explosive plays. Players who can answer a lightning strike from Mahomes that left the Raiders stunned and wobbling last season.

They'll likely select one early in the 2020 NFL Draft and maybe another in the third round. But that won't be enough. With $54 million in projected cap space, expect the Raiders to look to the free-agent market to add a veteran receiver to help Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller shoulder the load. 

The Raiders don't seem like a home for A.J. Green and we can cross former Raider Amari Cooper off the list. Robby Anderson might be a fit, and the Raiders reportedly had interest in him at the deadline, but his price tag might be a tad high for a guy that isn't a true No. 1.

Gruden needs only look to the Raiders' now-former Bay Area neighbor for a free agent worth their while. 

Emmanuel Sanders came over to the 49ers in a midseason trade with the Denver Broncos and immediately paid dividends. He was able to lead a young receiver group while being successful running every type of route for coach Kyle Shanahan.

Sanders is most effective in a West Coast type of offense such as the one Gruden runs. The 32-year-old completely transformed his game after tearing his Achilles, reinventing himself as a savvy, veteran playmaker. He's a highly efficient route-runner and has some of the surest hands in the game, only dropping one pass last season.

His arrival in San Francisco took the 49ers' passing game from an attack with puppy teeth to one that could shred defenses in an instant. He played a key role in the development of Deebo Samuel, who became a lethal weapon as the season wore on. Sanders also is a good blocker on the outside, as he showcased during the 49ers' run to the Super Bowl.

Don't let Jimmy Garoppolo's overthrow in Super Bowl LIV taint your opinion of Sanders. With the title on the line, Sanders smoked his man, blew past the safety and was in line to be a Super Bowl hero had the pass been on target.

He's played in three Super Bowls and knows what it takes to get to, and win, the biggest game in sports. His leadership and experience would be as valuable as his on-field production.

Some will argue Sanders' age is a red flag or that the 49ers are destined to re-sign him. Due to the 49ers' cap situation, it seems more likely than not that they will let Sanders walk. At age 32, Sanders is exiting his prime, but he's the perfect veteran receiver to complement Tyrell Williams, mentor Renfrow and the incoming top prospect (s) (CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy) and provide a reliable target for Derek Carr, Tom Brady or whoever is under center for the Raiders in 2020.

[RELATED: Why Raiders would make sense in Darius Slay trade]

The Raiders need to take their offense to the next level. Their offensive line is stout, running back Josh Jacobs is a star and Renfrow and Waller will be long-term staples of the offensive attack. Gruden will expect more from Williams in Year 2 of his contract after the veteran receiver was hampered by injuries in 2019. 

But they need to get more explosive at receiver. No matter who the quarterback is, Renfrow and Waller can't be the only weapons. If that's the case again in 2020, the results will be the same.

A deep draft class at receiver will help the Raiders stock the arsenal, but they'll need another proven veteran as well.

Sanders, who PFF projects to make around $10 million per season, would give Gruden a do-it-all veteran who has ranked as one of the 25 most valuable receivers in each of the past two seasons. And it also would leave the Raiders with money to spend to improve a defense that needs a lot of work.

An offense with Sanders, Williams, Renfrow, Waller, Jacobs and at least one young star from the draft would give the Raiders' offense the pop Gruden has been missing.

Derek Carr posts photo with Khalil Mack, adding to Bears trade rumors

Derek Carr posts photo with Khalil Mack, adding to Bears trade rumors

The picture of Tom Brady talking to Raiders owner Mark Davis at a UFC fight was burned into Oakland Las Vegas Raiders fans' minds.

What would that mean for Derek Carr? Could he be headed to the Windy City to meet up with an old friend? 

There has been a lot of speculation about Carr getting traded this offseason. Carr had a less than memorable season during the Raiders' last year in Oakland, and a photo on his Instagram just adds to the swirling thoughts.

Carr added a picture of himself and Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack, with no caption.

Naturally, the comments section flooded with speculation. 

The two are former Raiders teammates, and despite Carr's "meh" season, he would be an improvement over current Bears QB Mitch Trubisky -- who could also use a change of scenery. 

[RELATED: One NFL exec sees Raiders as Brady's fallback]

Carr's contract could make a trade hard, but this IG post on top of everything else makes us think.

The quarterback will blow out 29 candles on his birthday cake next month which could only help his cause.