Editor’s note: The Raiders have been right with the salary cap for a few years now. They have roughly $74 million in cap space heading into the start of unrestricted free agency next week. Teams can negotiate with other team’s players on Monday and formally sign them Wednesday. We’ll take a look at how the Raiders could fill several areas of need heading toward the NFL’s free-agent frenzy. This installment examines cornerbacks.
It’s no secret the Raiders need a cornerback, maybe two. David Amerson is the only incumbent with a certain spot in top rotation, and head coach Jack Del Rio made it crystal clear the Raiders will add secondary talent through free agency and the draft. Veterans could step in and help right away, preferably for a longer term. The Raiders have had a series of one-year starters at cornerback over the last four years. They’d like to break that cycle with smart spending on the right people.
Here’s at who’s here, and who could be added to the mix over the next few weeks.
David Amerson: 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, three accrued seasons, North Carolina State
Stats: 60 tackles, four interceptions (one touchdown), 25 passes defensed, one forced fumble
TJ Carrie: 6 feet, 205 pounds, two accrued seasons, Ohio
Stats: 52 tackles, one interception, nine passes defensed, one forced fumble
DJ Hayden: 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, three accrued seasons, Houston
Stats: 70 tackles, one sack, one interception, eight passes defensed one forced fumble
Thoughts: The Raiders went young at cornerback, and the lack of additions didn’t pan out. Incumbents in Hayden and Keith McGill never established themselves and Amerson, a waiver claim from Washington, quickly became the No. 1 corner while Carrie played significant time at safety. He could end up there next season as well. The Raiders need to upgrade this group, and plan to do so this offseason.
Sean Smith (Chiefs): 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, seven accrued seasons, Utah
Stats: 45 tackles, two interceptions, 12 passes defensed
Good fit? The Raiders went after Smith in 2013. Didn’t get him. They’re expected to make another run at a solid cornerback who fits the mold of a modern cover man. He’s tall, and lanky, can make plays on the ball and is tough in coverage. He’ll be 29 before training camp and the price might be high, but Smith could be considered a solid investment with a shelf life.
Janoris Jenkins (Rams): 5-foot-10, 198 pounds, four accrued seasons, North Alabama
Stats: 64 tackles, three interceptions, 15 passes defensed, one forced fumble
Good fit? Jenkins is considered the best cornerback set for the open market. At 27, he’s improving while entering his prime. Jenkins doesn’t have the size ideal for this position, but he ranks among the league’s best cornerbacks. He’ll be motivated after the Rams gave Trumaine Johnson a franchise tag over him. He won’t come cheap. How far should the Raiders go, if there are comparable, less costly options?
Jeremy Lane (Seahawks): 6 feet, 190 pounds, four accrued seasons, Northwestern Louisiana
Stats: 13 tackles, six passes defense two interceptions
Good fit? Lane had a rough Super Bowl that started a rash of health issues. He had a broken arm, a torn ACL and dealt with a subsequent infection. He recovered in time for the Seahawks playoff push and still played well. Coordinator Ken Norton knows him from his Seattle days and knows he’ll fit the Raiders system and can certainly play the slot. He isn’t a big name at cornerback, but he’s someone to keep an eye on this week.
Casey Hayward (Packers): 5-foot-11, 192 pounds, four accrued seasons, Vanderbilt
Stats: 65 tackles, seven passes defensed
Good fit? Hayward comes with Packers pedigree, and is a versatile cover man who plays well in the slot. That’s an essential spot these days, especially if a player can go insider and out. Hayward knows how to win. The Raiders respect that.
Other options: Brandon Boykin (Steelers), Pacman Jones (Bengals), Patrick Robinson (Chargers), Sterling Moore (Buccaneers), Prince Amukamara (Giants)
Overall thoughts: The Raiders need cornerbacks, and lots of them. If they add more than one, a Smith-Lane combo might provide a good value with money left to spend on other spots. The Raiders are looking to mold a defense with preferred athletes, and there are plenty of options available to stabilize their secondary.