Detroit Lions

Raiders sign Luke Willson, add to already competitive tight end group

Raiders sign Luke Willson, add to already competitive tight end group

The Raiders added depth to an already sturdy tight end group by signing Luke Willson on Friday afternoon, adding fire to what should be a competitive position group throughout the offseason and training camp.

Willson isn’t guaranteed one of the three (or four, maximum) available spots on September’s 53-man roster, but he’ll challenge for one if he finds previous form following a down year. He was an effective low-volume target with the Seattle Seahawks, but didn’t pan out with the Detroit Lions in 2018.

Standing 6-foot-5, 251 pounds, Willson can be an effective blocker and will surely be in the mix on special teams.

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Willson joins a position group that already includes Lee Smith, Derek Carrier, Darren Waller and Paul Butler. Jared Cook signed with the New Orleans Saints earlier this week, and Waller will be given a crack at his receiving role. Don’t rule out the Raiders selecting a tight end early, or at some point in this year’s NFL draft.

With up to four roster spots available, the established Willson could pay dividends, or push Carrier to be more impactful on offense.

As a side note, Willson is from Windsor, Canada. The Raiders are in talks to play an exhibition game north of the border against the Green Bay Packers.

Raiders add veteran cornerback Nevin Lawson to young position group

Raiders add veteran cornerback Nevin Lawson to young position group

The Raiders have a young cornerback corps, in need of experience. That’s where Nevin Lawson comes in. The former Detroit Lions cover man signed with the Raiders on Wednesday night, the team announced, and joins a group headlined by Gareon Conley.

Lawson signed a one-year, $3.05 million contract, a league source said, becoming the second defensive player added in as many days.

Lawson joins Conley and Daryl Worley, fully expected back on a second-round restricted free agent tender, and second-year man Nick Nelson.

High-profile free-agent signing Lamarcus Joyner is a safety by title, but will often play slot cornerback.

Lawson played more in the slot last year than ever, with 389 snaps inside and 402 near the boundaries.

He doesn’t have any interceptions as a professional -- teammates must give him grief over that one -- but has 25 passes defensed. According to analytics site Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks have a 103.3 passer rating when targeting him.

Lawson has been a steady starter the past three seasons and will surely compete for a significant role in Oakland as well. He’ll fight for a spot inside or out, and offers veteran’s experience where there isn’t much at this stage.

It doesn’t eliminate the prospect of drafting a cornerback relatively high, but it will create legitimate position battles this summer.

Lawson’s listed at 5-foot-9, 192 pounds. That’s a bit shorter than the Raiders prefer, but has proven reliable with just four missed games in the last four seasons.

Lawson visited the Raiders facility earlier Wednesday and came out with a contract. Several other defensive backs came in around the same time. That included safety George Iloka, who played for Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther in Cincinnati. Reports also stated safety Curtis Riley was in the building. So was cornerback Tyler Patmon, per the Las Vegas Review Journal.

The Raiders could still be on the lookout for safety help on the free-agent market as they fortify the depth chart with lower-cost options after spending big on offense early in the free agent process.

[RELATED: Report: Former Raiders TE Jared Cook nearing Saints deal]

Joyner was the high-profile defensive signing, with defensive lineman Josh Mauro, linebacker Vontaze Burfict and now Lawson in free agency’s later stages.

Eli Harold explains why being traded by 49ers was 'best thing' for him


Eli Harold explains why being traded by 49ers was 'best thing' for him

Sometimes, a change of scenery is the best thing for a young player.

For former 49ers linebacker Eli Harold, that appears to be the case, as the soon-to-be 25-year-old sent out this tweet Friday morning.

Harold, a third-round draft pick by the 49ers in 2015, recorded five total sacks and 84 combined tackles over three seasons in San Francisco. Not terrible numbers.

But before the 2018 season, the 49ers traded Harold to the Detroit Lions for a conditional 2020 seventh-round pick. In his first season with the Lions, Harold registered just 10 total tackles, but he had a career-high four sacks.

During the 2016 season, Harold was one of the first players on the team to kneel in protest of social injustices along with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid and others. Harold, Reid and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin led the protests during the 2017 season.