Why Panthers signing Robby Anderson is bad for Raiders, 49ers' draft plans

Why Panthers signing Robby Anderson is bad for Raiders, 49ers' draft plans

Another big free-agent domino fell Tuesday when the Carolina Panthers agreed to sign wide receiver Robby Anderson to a two-year, $20 million contract. 

The Panthers, who supposedly are entering a full rebuild under new head coach Matt Rhule, added to one of their most glaring needs, giving new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater a No. 1 receiver. The Panthers' signing of Anderson was bad news for the New York Jets, who were hoping to bring the receiver back, and tangentially for the Raiders and 49ers. 

As we head toward the 2020 NFL Draft, the Raiders (No. 12 overall pick) and the 49ers (No. 13 overall pick) both are looking to draft an elite wide receiver from a loaded class. Over the last few months, it has looked like both Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb and Alabama's Jerry Jeudy could be available when the Raiders go on the clock at No. 12, giving Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock their pick of the litter and leaving the 49ers to take the best receiver left on the board. 

That all assumed that the Jets, who pick at No. 11, would draft an offensive tackle to keep Sam Darnold from getting beaten up for the third season in a row. This draft is as tackle heavy as it is receiver heavy at the top, with Louisville's Mekhi Becton, Iowa's Tristan Wirfs, Alabama's Jedrick Wills and Georgia's Andrew Thomas all expected to be top-20 picks. 

But, Anderson leaving the Big Apple to team up with his old college coach in Carolina gives the Jets a need that is as pressing as the one at left tackle. With Anderson gone, the Jets' only receivers are Breshad Perriman -- who they agreed to a one-year contract with Tuesday -- Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Braxton Berrios and Quincy Enuwa, along with assorted special teams and practice squad players. 

If you thought the Raiders' receiving corps last year was bad, this group is a whole lot worse. 

The Jets now will have to choose which position they think is more valuable to the development of their franchise quarterback -- wide receiver or left tackle?

In NBC Sports Bay Area's current mock draft, Dalton Johnson and I have the Jets taking Lamb, and that was before the Anderson signing. That had more to do with our infatuation for the Oklahoma receiver than the Jets' need at the position. But with Anderson and his 52 catches, 779 yards and five touchdowns now gone, the Jets have to get Darnold some playmakers on the outside or else he will be doomed to fail. 

If Jets head coach Adam Gase elects to take Lamb or Jeudy, that would give the Raiders the one left standing and have the 49ers choose between drafting Alabama's Henry Ruggs or trading down.

Make no mistake, Ruggs, who ran a 4.27 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine, is a prize unto himself. He's a dynamic downfield threat and a versatile weapon who can strike from anywhere. But he is just a tick below Lamb and Jeudy in my eyes. 

Another thing pushing the Jets the way of receiver and not left tackle is that Gang Green agreed to sign former Seattle Seahawks tackle George Fant in free agency. Fant, 27, was used as the sixth offensive lineman in Seattle, but he told KNJR in Seattle that he is coming to New York to play left tackle

“I made it very clear that I wanted to play that position at the end of the season,” Fant said, via Newsday. “That was a huge part of me making this decision to go there. I feel like that’s home for me. I feel like left tackle is the best position for me. Now it’s to the point where I’m ready to go out there and prove it and just go out there and do my job and try to help this team win games.”

[RELATED: How free-agent signings impact Raiders' draft plan]

Of course, the Jets still could take Wills or Thomas and put Fant at right tackle and address receiver later on in the draft. That might be the smarter choice in the long run. But, this is the Jets we are talking about. 

Anderson's departure appears to make it all the more likely the Jets go wideout at No. 11. That will leave the Raiders and 49ers hoping no other team in the top 10 goes wide receiver and they can still gobble up the remaining two of Lamb, Jeudy and Ruggs. 

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders in solid salary-cap standing heading into event

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders in solid salary-cap standing heading into event

Damarious Randall’s deal with the Raiders went across the NFL transaction wire on Tuesday. The defensive back was the last veteran free-agent addition to get processed by the league and the players union, meaning all of the Silver and Black’s new players are now official.

That gives us a crystal-clear look at the Raiders salary cap situation and where they stand heading into the NFL draft.

The Raiders have $8.128 million in salary-cap space, according to a daily public report issued Thursday morning by the NFL Players Association. That’s a smidge under the roughly $9.4 million estimates required to sign their NFL draft class as currently slotted, but certainly not a big deal that won’t have to be addressed until picks start signing in May and June.

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There are plenty of corrections to be made through cutting expendable players -- they still have four veteran quarterbacks on the roster -- or a minor restructure to get under the financial threshold.

The draft could also take care of the issue, especially if the Raiders trade down or end up with few selections than they currently own.

The Raiders were able to add 12 veterans in unrestricted free agents and retained eight through extensions or various contract tenders.

Restructuring Rodney Hudson’s contract was key to adding this many new folks, as they shuffled his money around to spread out what would’ve been a significant 2020 salary cap hit.

[RELATED: Raiders' 2020 offseason scorecard: Trades, signings, NFL draft picks]

The Raiders would be in a different space had the Eli Apple deal gone through. He was set to sign a one-year deal worth $6 million before the pact fell apart. Randall came aboard after that on a one-year contract worth up to $3.25 million, but it comes with a $1.5 million base salary and a $2.1 million cap hit.

That swap was a win for the on-field product and salary-cap standing, though it intensifies the need to find a cornerback in the NFL draft.

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders could strike gold with Day 2 cornerback gems

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders could strike gold with Day 2 cornerback gems

The Raiders struck gold in the 2019 NFL Draft by finding Trayvon Mullen, a potential lockdown corner in the second round.

You can pencil Mullen as the starting cornerback on one side of the field for the foreseeable future. The Raiders tried to address the cornerback position in free agency, but they missed out on Byron Jones and Chris Harris Jr. After their deal with Eli Apple fell apart, cornerback became a pressing need to be addressed in the NFL draft.

The 2020 cornerback class has one surefire star in Ohio State's Jeff Okudah and two-to-five other likely NFL starters that should go in the first 40 picks. That's pretty much the range for elite cornerbacks. Over the last four years, Richard Sherman (fifth-round), A.J. Bouye (undrafted) and Malcolm Butler (undrafted) were the only three All-Pro cornerbacks who weren't drafted in the first two rounds. The other 13 all were taken at the top of the draft.

That doesn't mean it's impossible to find talent at cornerback later in the draft, it just means it's a little less likely. The Raiders should be able to address their cornerback need in Round 1, but there are a few later-round guys who they should target if the draft goes a different way.

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Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn

Igbinoghene arrived on The Plains as a talented receiver recruit and turned into one of the draft's most intriguing cornerback prospects.

A relatively new corner, Igbinoghene has the athleticism and physicality to play at the NFL but he will need to get more comfortable with his coverage instincts. He's an explosive athlete with a high NFL ceiling, but there's no telling how long it will take him to reach it. Over 878 coverage snaps at Auburn, Igbinoghene allowed only three touchdowns. Not bad for a converted wide receiver.

Here's the athleticism:

And improving coverage skills.

Bryce Hall, Virginia

Hall returned for his senior season at Viriginia, but an ankle injury limited him to just six games, hurting his draft stock.

The 6-foot-1 defensive back is long and explosive with tremendous ball skills. He struggled at times in man coverage at Virginia and many analysts beleive he might be best suited for a zone-heavy scheme. While he comes with question marks, Hall has is an intelligent player, high character locker room presence and has the ability to make game-changing plays on the field.

He projects as an NFL starter as long as the fit is right.

Damon Arnette, Ohio State

If you're looking for a starter in press coverage, Damon Arnette is your man.

Overshadowed by his teammate Okudah, the 6-foot cornerback has great quickness, is sticky in man coverage, has the anticipation to play zone and brings exceptional ball skills and body control to the table. He had the lowest passer rating allowed in single man coverage in the NCAA last year.

The Raiders kicked the tires on a Darius Slay trade, but it fell through. Arnette has drawn comparisons to Slay and should be able to start in the NFL on Day 1.

Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State

One of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, Dantzler has the height, length, competitiveness and versatility to be a solid NFL cornerback. While some scouts worry about his narrow frame, the tape shows a corner with great coverage skills in man, press and zone.

Dantzler's anticipation and instincts have some analysts believing he'd be a better zone-scheme fit in the NFL. His production across 22 starts at Mississippi State shows a corner who has the tools to fit into any scheme if given the time.

The 6-foot-2 corner also played LSU's Ja'Marr Chase -- the Biletnikoff Award winner and likely top-10 2021 pick -- the best of any corner. While Chase torched Clemson's A.J. Terrell, a likely top 40 pick, in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Dantzler only allowed two catches for 13 yards when targeted by LSU.

However, Dantlzer's 4.64 40 time and 30.5-inch arms will raise a lot of questions about his staying power in the NFL.

[RELATED: Why trading up to draft Okudah is perfect move for Raiders

Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame

Potentially one of the most underrated prospects in the draft, Notre Dame's Troy Pride Jr. played well at the Senior Bowl and could be one of the steals of the 2020 NFL Draft.

The 5-foot-11 corner has the requisite quickness, speed and change of direction to thrive in man coverage. While he thrives in man, Pride also has the instincts to play zone and has played in a press-scheme as well, making him not scheme dependent.

Hurting Pride are his less than exceptional ball skills and lack of production in run support. While he might not be a Day 1 starter, Pride does have the skills and potential to be a starter in Year 2 or Year 3.