Isaiah Johnson

Raiders adding Prince Amukamara a smart move for young cornerback room

Raiders adding Prince Amukamara a smart move for young cornerback room

The Raiders have great confidence in rookie Damon Arnette as a physical talent, competitor and scheme fit.

Adding a veteran after taking the Ohio State product No. 19 overall in the NFL draft doesn’t weaken the previous statement one bit.

The Silver and Black are working to lock up soon-to-be 31-year old Prince Amukamara, a league source said on Tuesday afternoon, and have an agreement on terms but the deal isn’t formally done. NFL Network first reported the news.

That’s a smart move for several reasons. Veteran talent is at a premium these days, especially with offseason programs going virtual and no expectation that on-field work can resume in the near future. Rookies need every second of practice to adjust to a new scheme, new teammates and the NFL game. While Amukamara is also coming in fresh, his nine seasons professional experience will help him adjust.

Even if Arnette’s the long-term answer at one outside cornerback spot, that doesn’t mean he’s the best short-term solution. Last year’s second-round draft pick Trayvon Mullen established himself as a rookie starter, but it took half a season to earn that spot and make it easy to ship Gareon Conley to Houston.

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Amukamara has the size required to play the Raiders scheme, and while he’s not a ball hawk with 10 interceptions in nine seasons, he has a 89.6 passer rating allowed when targeted in his career and has 43 career pass breakups.

His numbers got a bit worse last season in Chicago, but they weren’t anywhere close to bad. His 14.3-yards per reception allowed wasn’t great and marks a career-worst since his rookie year.

Amukamara was, ironically enough, the No. 19 overall pick by the New York Giants way back in 2011. He didn’t play much his rookie season but became a consistent starter after that despite moving around some in his career.

Arnette will be given a chance to compete and secure the starting cornerback job, but adding Amukamara gives the Raiders a quality option to evaluate and possibly fall back on if the rookie takes some time adjusting to the NFL game.

The Raiders are expected to play Mullen at one outside cornerback slot and Lamarcus Joyner in the slot. Johnathan Abram will man one safety spot, with Damarious Randall in to battle incumbent Erik Harris and newcomer Jeff Heath for the free safety gig.

There’s heavy competition for reserve cornerback spots with largely unproven second-year pros Isaiah Johnson and Keisean Nixon in the mix with veteran Nevin Lawson.

Fourth-round pick Amik Robertson shouldn’t be discounted as a presence in the slot or on the outside. That’s a crowded position group a major question mark at cornerback.

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The Raiders took some pressure off Arnette with this move, so they don’t have to force him or another young player into the starting lineup in Week 1 if they’re not completely ready and missing his first full-time offseason program.

This veteran signing comes a bit more than a month after Eli Apple’s one-year, $6 million pact fell apart over a physical. The Raiders addressed cornerback twice in the draft after that and again on Tuesday trying to provide options, quality and experience into a Raiders secondary that stands as the biggest defensive question mark at this point.

How Raiders struck gold late in 2019 NFL Draft by 'power of patience'

How Raiders struck gold late in 2019 NFL Draft by 'power of patience'

Mike Mayock wasn’t thrilled with Hunter Renfrow’s performance at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine. The Clemson receiver’s 40-yard dash was a little too fast.

The Raiders general manager wanted the slick, agile and always clutch slot receiver in Silver and Black and a solid showing may have pushed him above the range where the Raiders hoped to take him.

“I was almost disappointed that he ran in the 4.5s at the combine,” Mayock said last year. “I didn’t want any more people noticing him.”

Renfrow’s game tape is top-notch but his measurables are ordinary at best. The guy just gets open and rarely disappoints, making him the quarterback’s best friend. Mayock wanted a guy like that working with Derek Carr.

The Raiders made three fourth-round picks not named Renfrow, but didn’t want to wait until their turn in the fifth. They trade up a smidge to make sure they got him, completing a run of excellent Day 3 picks that turned a solid NFL draft class into an excellent one.

Primary focus honed on the team’s three first-round picks, earned with a 4-12 record and the Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper trades.

Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs and Johnathan Abram got to hold up jerseys at a fancy press conference, but those assets acquired on that Saturday, when most fans follow a reading of names they’ve never heard of, is when Mayock and Gruden did their best work.

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They landed edge rusher Maxx Crosby, cornerback Isaiah Johnson, tight end Foster Moreau, Renfrow and edge rusher Quinton Bell.

Bell didn’t work out. That happens with seventh-round fliers. Johnson was hurt most of last season but the team still believes he can become a significant defensive contributor.

Mayock hit the other three selections out of the freaking park. Crosby had 10 sacks and was runner up for defensive rookie of the year. Moreau was a quality run blocker and red zone receiving target who finished with five touchdowns and often came up big in the clutch. Renfrow came on strong late and finished as the team’s best receiver.

The Raiders used their fourth-round pick to take Crosby and traded down a few times to land Johnson and Moreau.

That’s a lot of quality acquired on the draft’s final day. Mayock didn’t pat himself on the back when asked to look back on that experience. He actually focused on a valuable lesson learned about what he called “the power of patience.”

Mayock suggested a few times that the Raiders trade up in the NFL draft’s first and second days to get guys they wanted. Those moves normally cost multiple picks, especially Day 3 kickers the Raiders are glad they kept and were able to use effectively.

Instead, the Raiders traded down twice and still got Clemson cornerback Trayvon Mullen, providing the Day 3 cache to get a good job done.

“We had talked about moving up a couple different times throughout the first two or three rounds,” Mayock said Tuesday in a conference call with local reporters. “We talked it through, we decided not to do it and we got in the second round and we traded back twice and still got the one player we wanted. It gave us some extra picks on the third day. We traded back two times again in the fourth round and then traded up in the fifth round to come get Hunter Renfrow.

“I think the one thing I learned is that even though I wanted to be impulsive, I had to think that it helped that Jon and I talked everything through and kind of decided to be patient and ultimately we let the draft come to us a little bit and through that process we generated two or three extra picks that turned into pretty good football players.”

[RELATED: NFL Draft 2020: Raiders' position sets Mike Mayock up to hit home run]

Working the draft as they did, being patient and prudent while still getting guys they wanted ultimately secured a foundational draft class that played a significant role in last year’s 7-9 and provides hope for the future.

“Obviously, you want to be aggressive and you want to go after the players you want,” Mayock said. “But in hindsight on the third day, you get Maxx Crosby at No. 106. We think Isaiah Johnson, who’s a fourth-round pick, has a chance to be very good. Foster Moreau had a heck of a season as a rookie until he got hurt and Hunter Renfrow, as a fifth-round pick, had a big year in the slot. So, I think a lot of people get fired up and the mock drafts are all about the first round and people scream and yell about who the quarterbacks are, but at the end of the day, to me, the third day is just as important as the first. So is the acquisition of the college free agents.”

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders could find late-round steal in Harrison Hand

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders could find late-round steal in Harrison Hand

Wide receiver and linebacker are the Raiders' two biggest needs as they enter the offseason.

But the Silver and Black need upgrades across the entire defense. All eleven positions will be evaluated and improved if possible. That improvement won't just be for the starting unit, but for the depth as well.

While the linebackers are the most glaring issue, the secondary also needs to be fixed. Trayvon Mullen showed lock-down potential during his rookie season, and the Raiders will be excited to get Johnathan Abram on the field in 2020.

The Raiders first can address their leaky defense in free agency, before turning their attention to the 2020 NFL Draft. There they will find a talented crop of corners from LSU's Kristian Fulton to Alabama's Trevon Diggs.

I don't expect the Raiders to use a first-round draft pick on a cornerback, but even if they do, they'll still need to improve their depth at the position and Harrison Hand could be a great fit.

Hand started his career at Baylor before transferring to Temple. Hand, 5-foot-11, 197, is projected to be a Day 3 pick. He won't be ready to jump in right away, but he's a physical corner, who has worked hard to become a better tackler. He's long, rangy and has solid ball skills.

He believes he has the tools to be a star at the next level.

"I'm a lockdown corner," Hand told NBC Sports Bay Area on Radio Row during the week of Super Bowl LIV. "I've got speed in coverage. Not a lot of corners tend to want to come up and tackle and be in the box -- be that aggressive -- but that's a part of my game that I like to make an impact."

With Gareon Conley traded to the Houston Texans and Daryl Worley hitting free agency, the Raiders need to find a long-term solution to the corner opposite of Mullen. 

Some believe Hand would be a better safety than corner at the next level, but the Temple product wants to mold his game after another corner who many counted out in the draft -- Richard Sherman. 

"His knowledge," Hand said of what part of his game he wants to model after Sherman. "He's a film junky. He knows the game like the back of his hand because of all the film he watches."

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The Raiders only have one Day 3 pick right now, but Hand might be someone for them to look at if he's still on the board. He's not afraid to be physical and has the potential to be a solid corner in the NFL if the right team gets ahold of him.