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Why reported Darius Slay trade from Lions makes sense for Raiders

Why reported Darius Slay trade from Lions makes sense for Raiders

The Raiders were on the verge of the playoffs this past season, but their passing defense took yet another step back. Besides the emergence of rookie Trayvon Mullen, the Silver and Black have plenty of question marks at cornerback as they move to Las Vegas.

There could be help available, though. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday that the Detroit Lions have talked to multiple teams regarding a trade for their Pro Bowl cornerback, Darius Slay.

Between need, their slew of draft picks and available cap space, the Raiders could be a perfect fit for a trade with the Lions. Let's start with how Slay would fit in the defense.

Mullen is expected to man one side of the defensive backfield at cornerback, while the other side is a bit of a mystery. Daryl Worley is a free agent this offseason, but Nevin Lawson, Nick Nelson, Keisean Nixon and Isaiah Johnson all are options. None are Slay, though. Not even close.

Slay, 29, made his third straight Pro Bowl this last season. He also was a First Team All-Pro in 2017 when he led the NFL with eight interceptions and 26 passes defensed. Since 2014, Slay has recorded at least two interceptions and 13 passes defensed every season.

Per advanced analytics site Pro Football Focus, Slay has been the fifth-best cornerback in the game since 2014.

The Raiders also have the draft picks to get a deal done. They own two first-round picks -- Nos. 12 and 19 -- this April, as well as three in the third round, one in the fourth and one in the seventh. They have plenty of leverage to make a move.

Las Vegas also lands right in the middle of current available salary-cap space going into next season. According to Spotrac, the Raiders have slightly over $51.5 million in salary-cap space. Slay, who has a $13.4 million cap hit in 2020, wants a new contract as he's set to hit free agency after this upcoming season.

[RELATED: Ex-Raider Nnamdi Asomugha talks about his life on Broadway]

He likely would cost more than a few extra pennies, but it's clear Slay still can be a solid corner in a division where everyone is chasing QB Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Raiders could target a cornerback early in the draft. That's not out of the question at all. If the Lions are taking calls on Slay like Schefter reported, Raiders general manager Mike Mayock would be wise to listen.

49ers' Nick Bosa having 'unheard of' rookie year, says Shawne Merriman

49ers' Nick Bosa having 'unheard of' rookie year, says Shawne Merriman

Shawne Merriman knows what to look for in a Defensive Rookie of the Year, having won the award himself after entering the NFL as a first-round draft pick in 2005. He amassed 45.5 sacks over an eight-year career with the San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills, over which he frequently lived up to his "Lights Out" nickname. Merriman retired following the 2012 NFL season, but was at the 2019 NFL Draft to announce the Chargers' second-round pick.

That's when he got acquainted with the newest Pepsi NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year -- 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa.

"You can always tell within the first couple minutes of talking to a young guy what his mindset is and how he wants to approach the game, Merriman told NBC Sports Bay Area's Scott Bair on Radio Row in Miami on Thursday. "And when they ask the right questions, you know these guys are going to be great. Obviously, [Bosa] was coming in as a top draft pick, but he had questions like he was a guy just trying to come in and make the league."

Just based on that initial interaction, Merriman had high expectations for the No. 2 overall pick, but Bosa managed to surpass them.

"I knew he was going to be Defensive Rookie of the Year," Merriman said. "I knew he was going to be explosive -- it's in his blood, it's in his genes to be explosive and a good player. But what he's doing right now as a rookie, to me, it's unheard of. He's coming in, they're ready to go, and he's not playing like a rookie at all. And when his brother Joey said that he is better than him, I thought that he was just joking around, because Joey is an incredible player. But I think he was really honest about that."

Bosa might be the most notable name on the 49ers' defensive line, which has arguably been the best unit of its kind throughout the entire league this year. Merriman is impressed not only with the depth on San Francisco's defensive line, but the relentlessness of the entire defense in general.

"They have a great balance of guys across the board," Merriman explained. "On both sides of the ball, really. You look at their front seven, you've got guys that are swarming to the ball every single tackle. You see guys running from sideline to sideline. You never, ever see on the defensive side of the ball guys just tackling someone 1-on-1. You never do, because these guys all finish at the football."

Over the regular season and playoffs combined, Bosa has totaled 12 sacks, while Arik Armstead and Dee Ford have tallied 12 and 7.5, respectively. While those three have generated the most quarterback pressures, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner is the straw that stirs the drink. Merriman agreed as much and compared Buckner to his former Chargers teammate Jamal Williams.

"Jamal was one of these guys that ... he didn't get a lot of credit," Merriman said. "But you know what? I got the sacks because of Jamal Williams, and if it wasn't for him, I don't know if I would be going to back-to-back Pro Bowls. And Buckner is the same way. When you turn on that film as an opponent and you watch the film, you know exactly what he can do." 

[RELATED: Why 49ers might have trouble re-signing Ward, Armstead]

Merriman believes Buckner will have a particularly critical role in Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs, as his pressure up the middle will make it more difficult for Patrick Mahomes to hold the ball and take shots downfield. You can watch the full interview with Merriman at the top of this article.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (9:30 p.m. Friday, and 3 p.m. Saturday).

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.

Jerome Bettis believes 49ers win Super Bowl LIV behind rushing attack

Jerome Bettis believes 49ers win Super Bowl LIV behind rushing attack

Jerome Bettis knows quite well what it takes to effectively run the football.

"The Bus" ran for 13,662 yards over a 13-year NFL career with the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Hall of Famer is extremely impressed by what he has seen from the 49ers' rush offense this season.

"Outstanding," Bettis described to NBC Sports Bay Area's Laura Britt on Radio Row in Miami on Thursday. "They do a great job, but also Kyle Shanahan does a great job of putting those guys in position to be great in terms of running the football. So, the offensive line is doing an outstanding job, first of all, and then what they're doing is they're finishing the runs, the receivers are blocking, so he's got everyone believing that it takes all 11 guys on the field to be successful in the running game."

Only the Baltimore Ravens averaged more rushing yards per game during the regular season than San Francisco's 144.1, and the Niners have been even better in the postseason, where they've averaged 235.5 rushing yards over two playoff games. It has taken a full buy-in from the entire offensive unit, and no one exemplifies that more so than tight end George Kittle. Bettis is a big fan of his.

"It's always great, especially as a running back, because you know he's committed to your success. And [Kittle] wants to do just as great a job blocking as he is catching and receiving the pass. When you have a guy like that, all you want to do is for him to be successful because you know he wants to make sure you're successful."

[RELATED: When 49ers tight ends coach knew Kittle was so special]

Kittle's selflessness was on display in the 49ers' dominating 37-20 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game in which he received only a single target, but helped the team average 6.8 yards per rush for a total of 285 yards on the ground. San Francisco's rush offense was so effective that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo only attempted eight passes, completing six. Jimmy G received some undeserved criticism for that performance, and Bettis doesn't understand why.

"I've been impressed with the 49ers in that they have been unapologetically certain about how they are going to run the football, and they're not going to pass the ball if they don't have to," Bettis explained. "Everybody's saying, 'Oh, you need to pass the football.' Why? You don't need to pass the football. If you can run the football and you don't have to put your quarterback in a difficult position where he can get sacked, where he can get injured or the ball can get intercepted, why would you do something like that?

"But when they do have to throw the football, Jimmy Garoppolo is more than capable of getting it done. He has proved that this season. So, I think you've got a great football team, but you've also got a great philosophy that they use."

Bettis is picking the 49ers to prevail in Super Bowl LIV, and their rushing attack is a big reason why. You can watch the full interview with "The Bus" at the top of this article.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (9:30 p.m. Friday, and 3 p.m. Saturday).

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.