Lamarcus Joyner is from Miami and went to Florida State. The veteran defensive back was set on playing closer to home after spending five years with the Rams in St. Louis and Los Angeles, and focused primarily on teams the East Coast during free agency.
“In my mind, I thought nothing was going to change that until I heard (Raiders head coach Jon Gruden) called and I did a 180,” Joyner said Thursday . “After getting to talk to him and some of the guys in the building, I was very excited about the way they were going to use me and how people were happy to have me here. That was the biggest decision making point for me.”
Gruden is known as a closer, and helped lock Joyner down on a four-year, $42 million contract with $16.7 million guaranteed. The money was an obvious plus, but Joyner had options. He chose the Raiders after talking to Gruden and hearing how the Raiders planned to move him around the secondary.
Joyner was a slot cornerback before moving to free safety once Wade Phillips became Rams defensive coordinator, and is excited to play both spots with the Raiders.
“It’s just something that I’ve been doing since literally high school, college,” Joyner said. “Going from nickel to safety, nickel to safety, it’s what keeps me going. It keeps the season new and refreshing for me. … It motivates me to just enjoy the game much more.”
The Raiders need help in both spots. Nick Nelson struggled at times in the slot and Leon Hall won’t be retained, so Joyner can help there when offenses use extra receivers. He could play free safety in the base defense and have Erik Harris or a drafted safety step in for sub packages, when he’d move into the slot.
“I love the nickel back position. It’s a natural, instinctual position for me,” Joyner said. “I get to do a lot of things. I’m great at tackling. I’m great at beating guys to the point. I’m great at covering. There’s a lot the nickel has tied up into its identity as a role that fits me, so I’m very excited.”
Exact rotations and roles will be sorted out this spring and summer, but Joyner’s versatility gives the Raiders options they prefer.
He joins a young secondary featuring cornerbacks Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley, who is expected back on a second-round restricted free-agent tender, and strong safety Karl Joseph. All of those expected starters have three years NFL experience or less, so Joyner could be a leader in the back. He’ll bring veteran savvy to the back end, and a different skill set that Joseph when those two are paired together.
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Joyner doesn’t know Joseph yet, but he has respected Joseph’s aggressiveness from afar.
“I love his game,” Joyner said. “I’m a big advocate of old school, smashmouth football and I think that’s what he is about. You got a guy that will strike you, he’ll hit you and he knows how to play the ball. I think he is very humble and hungry. I think in all terms, he is a dog.”