Raiders

Should Raiders trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick after Johnathan Abram injury?

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USATSI

Should Raiders trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick after Johnathan Abram injury?

Losing Johnathan Abram was a massive blow to the Raiders' defense.

The 27th overall draft pick was one of the talks of training camp, and his speed, physicality and energy were on full display in the Raiders' Week 1 win over the Denver Broncos. But the Mississippi State product tore his rotator cuff during the first quarter, and he underwent surgery earlier this week, effectively ending his rookie season after just four quarters.

WIth Abram on the shelf for the season, the Raiders will rely on veterans Erik Harris and Curtis Riley to fill the void left by the talented rookie. But is there another option? One might have presented itself in the form of the sinking ship known as the Miami Dolphins.

As the Dolphins embark on one of the most obvious tank jobs in recent memory, second-year slot corner/safety Minkah Fitzpatrick reportedly has been given permission to seek a trade.

The versatile safety was brilliant in his rookie season, totaling 80 combined tackles, nine passes defensed, two interceptions and one defensive touchdown. Upwards of 20 teams reportedly have reached out to the Dolphins since word of Fitzpatrick's trade request being granted broke, according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora. The Dolphins reportedly would like a future first-round draft pick for Fitzpatrick, per La Canfora, but their ask could change based on the market.

A Fitzpatrick trade could happen as soon as this week, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Sunday, citing sources.

Fitzpatrick is upset with his role in Dolphins coach Brian Flores' scheme, as he prefers to play slot corner/ free safety as opposed to strong safety.

The Raiders, of course, signed Lamarcus Joyner in the offseason, and he now occupies the slot corner role in Paul Guenther's defense. But Fitzpatrick, in theory, could slot into the free safety role with Abram out, and the Raiders could figure out the Joyner/Abram/Fitzpatrick/ Karl Joseph dynamic next season.

A first-round pick is a high price to pay, but Fitzpatrick was a first-round pick a year ago, and he has shown he was worthy of his high selection. The Raiders have two first-round picks in the 2020 draft -- owning the Bears' by virtue of the Khalil Mack trade -- but the Silver and Black probably would prefer not to trade either of those selections. While the Bears had a great 2018 season, they reside in a brutal division, and things could go south.

But if the Dolphins would take a first-round pick down the road or a different package of picks that doesn't include one of the 2020 firsts, the Raiders should jump at the opportunity to acquire someone as talented and versatile as Fitzpatrick.

Adding the 22-year-old would give the Raiders a loaded secondary with Fitzpatrick, Abram, 2017 first-round pick Gareon Conley and 2019 second-round pick Trayvon Mullen. That secondary could develop into one of the NFL's best.

[RELATED: How Burfict uses mind to help Raiders' defense play fast]

Trading for Fitzpatrick will come at a cost, but if it's one the Raiders can stomach, it would end up being a worthwhile coup to grab a guy with Pro-Bowl potential at the age of 22. He can help lessen the blow of losing Abram this season, and then become a staple of the secondary for years to come.

Why Nick Kwiatkoski thought Raiders were 'best fit' in NFL free agency

Why Nick Kwiatkoski thought Raiders were 'best fit' in NFL free agency

Nick Kwiatkoski doesn’t have a massive social media following, but a tweet the veteran linebacker sent out on March 16 quickly went viral.

It didn’t include a single word. It contained a picture of Allegiant Stadium and nothing more, but it was a clear sign that the Las Vegas Raiders had landed their first unrestricted free agent while representing their new market.

Sources later confirmed Kwiatkoski agreed to join the Silver and Black on a three-year, $21 million contract, showing the Raiders were serious about upgrading a long deficient linebacker corps.

The deal came together quickly, on the first day of free agency’s open negotiating window, because Kwiatkoski loved what the Raiders had to say. He would join the Raiders as a full-time, three-down middle linebacker.

“I felt that I’ve earned that spot, and that’s something I looked for in free agency,” Kwiatkoski said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Bay Area, available in its entirety on the Raiders Talk Podcast. “When they told me that, it was very appealing.”

That wasn’t the only reason the former Chicago Bear signed with the Raiders.

“They called very early and, when I spoke to them, it was very clear there’s an excitement around the whole organization with the move to Las Vegas,” Kwiatkoski said. “That was one of a number of reasons why I [made my decision]. When we played them in London last year and I just loved the mentality they brought to the game where they come right at you. With their defensive scheme, I thought I’d fit right in. I gave it some time and took some other calls, but I ended up thinking the Raiders were the best fit for me.”

There was some thought he’d fit in well as the Bears’ middle linebacker, but that prospect was eliminated when Danny Trevathan signed a contract extension on March 9. Kwiatkoski proved worthy of a starting gig after taking over following Trevathan’s season-ending elbow injury in Week 9.

There was no going back after an excellent eight-game stretch that included 58 tackles, two sacks and interception. Especially, not with teams ready to court him on the open market and make him a major player.

While those numbers look solid, the clip below shows exactly what the Raiders are getting in Kwiatkoski, and he doesn’t even record a stat.

Kwiatkoski put Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook on his back during a Week 4 win over the Vikings, blowing up a play with raw power and aggression.

“That’s an example of how I enjoy playing. I like being physical, going downhill,” Kwiatkoski said. “That’s how I have always played, and I plan on continuing to do that.”

He’ll do that with the Silver and Black, while paired with fellow free-agent addition Cory Littleton.

“He’s a great linebacker,” Kwiatkoski said. “To be able to line up with him and call him my teammate is going to be fun.”

The former LA Ram is a true sideline-to-sideline presence and an excellent coverage linebacker, a perfect complement to Kwiatkoski’s strength going downhill as a run defender and blitzer. The former high school safety, who converted to linebacker at West Virginia, also is confident in coverage and running a defense from the middle linebacker spot.

[RELATED: Raiders go offense/defense in latest mock draft]

Chicago’s fourth-round draft pick back in 2016 always has worked hard and capitalized on opportunities when presented, helping him earn a lucrative deal with a Raiders team counting on him to be a consistent playmaker. Earning this opportunity certainly is a point of pride as he moves on to the next chapter of his career.

“There were definitely times where I got down on myself after certain things happened, but to see how it has all played out … for me, no matter what my role was or what the situation was, I just put my head down and kept working,” Kwiatkoski said. “For that to all payoff is really gratifying. You can only control what you can control, and that’s what I focused on. I never lost sight of my goals. No matter what my role was, I was determined to work like a starter and play each day like it’s my last. For it to work out the way it has, with this new opportunity, it’s really gratifying.”

Raiders restructure Rodney Hudson's contract to create 2020 cap space

Raiders restructure Rodney Hudson's contract to create 2020 cap space

The Raiders took on a bit more salary in free agency than they were legally allowed, but restructured center Rodney Hudson’s massive contract to get back under the NFL salary cap.

The team’s cap and contracts people got creative with the deal, obtained by ESPN on Wednesday morning, to provide relief in 2020 and push increased cap hits down the road where they have more flexibility.

The Raiders converted $11.6 million of Hudson’s base salary into a signing bonus, freeing up $9.28 in cap space for 2020. His cap hits will go up $2.32 million in subsequent seasons, which includes two voidable years at the end of the deal to spread out his cap hits.

The Silver and Black had to do that now to get Carl Nassib’s deal in while staying under the cap. He’s set to make $25 million over three years, with a $7.75 million cap hit in 2020, per OverTheCap.com.

After factoring in the Nassib deal, the Hudson restructure and some other small additions, OTC reports the Raiders have $5.214 million in cap space. They might have to make another cap adjustment down the road, with $9.408 million required to pay their draft picks as currently slotted. They won’t have to make that move until later in the spring and summer, when they start signing draft picks.

[RELATED: Ranking Raiders' offensive players ahead of 2020 NFL draft]

The Raiders own the Nos. 12 and 19 overall selections, with three third-round picks and one each in the fourth and fifth rounds.

Hudson signed a long-term contract extension last season worth $33.7 million over three years, with $24.4 million guaranteed. Moving money around helps the Raiders stay right with the cap without hurting future standing and keeping all the talent the Raiders currently employ.