The Las Vegas Raiders have made some big acquisitions in free agency this offseason. With the bulk of free agency ending and the draft quickly approaching, it is time for fans to see if the newest additions to their team was worth the money that was spent.
To analyze the Las Vegas Raiders newest free agency signees, we will be grading them in order on an ABC Grade Scale. With A being a fantastic signee, and an E being a what in the He double Hockey Stick was Jon Gruden thinking paying that bum that kind of money.
Being a Raiders fan nowadays means you have just witnessed your team change locations from the mean streets of Oakland California to the gambling town of “Sin City”, known as Las Vegas. This might be a difficult transition for some fans, but hey, the game is all business. For starters, the two year point from 2018-2019 might have been the downfall for you as a fan. They bring back a coach who was with your team from 1998-2001, who rejoined in 2018 by signing a ten-year $100 million dollar contract.
So, you might be thinking, maybe Gruden will turn this organization around. Then the unthinkable things happen. You have just witnessed, who at the time, was arguably the best versatile game changing defender in the NFL, better known as Khalil Mack, get traded away for a couple picks. One of those picks ended up being stud Running Back, Josh Jacobs. Along with that, in 2018 they traded away their bonafide wide receiver 1 in Amari Cooper. Cooper has just caught a 5-year $100 million dollar contract from America’s Team.
Now, onto every Raiders fan most hated player, Antonio Brown. This receiver could have turned this offense around, but instead, he destroyed his own career. Gruden was ready to pay AB whatever it took to have a 7 time pro bowler run his offense and dominate in their conference.
I know what you’re thinking, how do you recover and bounce back from trading two of the NFL’s top players and having one of the best wide receivers run himself out of your team (and the league) while trying to assert yourself into the playoffs? You do that by dominating in not only the draft, but in Free agency. I think this year the Raiders did just that.
Here’s the man behind this master plan of great free agency signings, who has also acquired his team 2 first round draft picks, 3 third round picks, a fourth and a fifth round pick. Lets see, whenever the 2020 NFL Draft is going to take place, if Chuckie can fill the voids that were missed during the free agency signing period.
TOP FREE AGENT SIGNINGS
Contracts and Moves Courtesy of: nbcsports.com/bayarea/raiders/raiders-2020-offseason-scorecard-trades-signings-nfl-draft-picks
LB Cory Littleton (3 years 36 Million, 22 Million Guaranteed)
The Raiders made a slam dunk move in free agency by signing Cory Littleton. I wasn’t a big fan of Tahir Whitehead last year at Linebacker. He was decently solid as a run stopper, but lacked pass coverage. PFF gave Whitehead a grade of 42.2 in pass coverage, while Littleton nearly doubled his grade with a whopping 82.3. That’s going to be a tremendous upgrade for the Raiders and is perfect for the Modern NFL given the shift to passing dominance in the league.
The Raiders share the division with the reigning Super Bowl champions, and arguably the best pure passing quarterback in the game, Patrick Mahomes. In the past two seasons in pass coverage, Littleton ranks third in the NFL, behind only Lavonte David and Luke Kuechly with a 90.6 coverage grade. Making him the most efficient addition to this Raiders Linebacking Corp.
Littleton is also first among Linebackers in tackling grades. He has the lowest percentage of missed tackles, with only 5 missed tackles in 139 attempts. He is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker which fits well with the speedy receivers in KC, helps to battle Melvin Gordon, who is staying in the Division with the Broncos and scatback Austin Ekeler, who should be seeing a larger workload at RB for the Chargers.
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Littleton’s transition from the NFC West to the AFC West will give him 3 new Tight End challenges, 2 of them ranking top ten in fantasy points last year. His toughest opponent will be Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs. While Kelce led the NFL in receptions in 2019, and second among touchdowns by Tight Ends, I think this will be the truest test to show fans how talented Littleton really is.
Giving this newest addition an A on the Grade Scale
Nick Kwiatkoski (3 years $21 million, $13.5 million guaranteed)
Kwiatkoski is a high risk high reward kind of guy. The Risk is that he has only started 14 games since 2016. With eight of them coming last season due to Danny Trevathan‘s injury. This is a bold move giving him 21 million dollars over 3 years with 13.5 million guaranteed, wouldn’t you say? But, on the other hand if you watch the film it seems like Kwaitkowski will be another upgrade at linebacker which the Raiders desperately need. He checks out in all the categories and aspects that you will need out of a dominant Linebacker. The most impressive thing I see in Kwiatkowski is not only his 76 tackles, 3 sacks and 1 interception in only 8 games started, it’s his football IQ.
He was around the ball a lot when he took over for Trevathan. It didn’t look like Chicago’s Middle Linebacker position skipped a beat and it might’ve gotten even better. According to PFF Kwiatkowski graded higher than Trevathan as an all around Linebacker. Could’ve Chicago possibly kept the wrong guy?
Kwaitkowski is only 27 years old and still has room to grow; he possesses excellent blitzing skills; ranked 4th in PFF among Linebackers in blitzing; ranked higher than Littleton in run defense and his coverage defense is average among starting Linebackers. It’s going to be very interesting seeing him paired right next to Littleton in 2020.
Giving this newest addition an A- on the Grade Scale
Jeff Heath (2 years up to 8 million)
Heath isn’t in most eyes to people a home run signing to casual fans, but in terms of the Raiders roster it fills the void at safety, due to Karl Joseph signing with the Browns. Although, Heath won’t bring the same physicality and excellent tackling skills that Joseph brought at the Safety Position. He brings a little bit better coverage skills than what Joseph brought to the table.
PFF gave Heath’s coverage grade of a 69.0 while Joseph received a grade of a 64.7. Another big thing that any GM in the NFL can agree on Heath brings to the table that Karl Joseph cannot deliver is availability.
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In Karl Joseph’s 4 years of being a Raider he has missed 15 games, that’s almost an entire season! While Heath on the other hand has only missed 4 games in his 7 years playing for Dallas which is impressive. In all this was more of a lateral move more than a vertical move a 2 year deal for 8 million dollars for a player like Heath is a solid move.
Giving this newest addition a B- on the Grade Scale
Eli Apple (1 Year 6 Million $)
To most people when you hear the name Eli Apple the first thing that comes to mind is the famous word that came from his former teammate Landon Collins, “Cancer”, and this will be Apple’s 3rd team in the last 2 years. In all that with the Mixture of Mayock, Gruden and the attitude that Apple brings to the table it wouldn’t shock me one bit if he is cut by week 8.
Despite all that let’s talk about his football abilities. Apple’s coverage abilities are below average; he ranked in the bottom 70 in the league with coverage skills in 2019. On top of that he got flagged for 11 pass interference calls since joining the Saints in week 8 last year.
He is only average at playing zone defense, if he is ever in man coverage I would be really frightened because most teams really like to take advantage seeing him in that type of coverage. On the other hand he is a great tackler and run stopping corner. He has a lot of playing style similarities like Jerraud Powers. It’s going to be an interesting 2020 training camp to see who wins the starting job between Apple and Nevin Lawson.
Giving this newest addition a D+ on the Grade Scale
Nelson Agholor (1 Year 1 Million $)
The best way to put it is he is the most unpredictable NFL player and Wide Receiver. Why do I say that? His drops are a major issue especially last year when he only caught 56 percent of his targeted passes. In his career totals he was targeted 334 times, he only caught 224 passes which to most coaches that’s cringe worthy with that catch percentage.
He is a solid Red Zone threat at Receiver. In the past 3 seasons he was targeted in the redzone 36 times with 8 touchdowns. Which is pretty impressive, because Doug Pederson loves to throw the ball to the tight ends in the red zone.
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It’s not the most impressive signing on paper. Agholor has yet to post a season over 800 yards receiving when you really look at it. He is probably going to have a career like Danny Amendola with just being a nice number 3 target. He is not going to put up any jaw dropping stats.
Giving this newest addition a C+ on the Grade Scale
Carl Nassib (3 years 25 Million, 17 Million Guaranteed)
Not much of a highlight signing, but the one thing he brings to the table is D-Line Depth. Nassib is really adaptable to schemes in a 4-3 scheme. He plays D-end, and in a 3-4 he is a rushing linebacker which will be pretty helpful to the raiders pass rush.
Last year he posted 6.5 sacks in Tampa without having the full time starting job at D-end. Nassib was also a team captain last year in Tampa. Which is pretty refreshing bringing in a veteran that can help along Maxx Crosby. Who had a surprising rookie campaign. Putting up 10 sacks and Clelin Ferrell who just posted up 4.5 sacks last year.
This move will bring more of a threat to the pass rush with Nassib being a nice rotational player. I can’t wait to see how big of a step the D-line takes pass rush wise with Crosby and Ferrell having another year under their belt. Plus the help of bringing in the veteran presence that Nassib will bring in the locker room.
Giving this newest addition a B on the Grade Scale
Maliek Collins (1 Year 6 Million $)
Collins provides the same abilities that Carl Nassib brings to the table D-line depth as well. The upside he brings is availability which is a key thing in the NFL. He has only missed three games in his entire football career! He also provides his pass rush abilities which is a need in their interior line.
In 59 games with Mo Hurst and P.J. Hall they had 9 sacks combined and just Collins alone had 14.5 sacks in 55 games. The one thing that makes Collins a liability is he is horrendous at his run defense. PFF ranked him in the bottom 70 against the run, so he will be only valuable in passing situations.
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It’s not a boom signing but with him and the addition of Nassib this will tremendously help the young Raider D-line. Along with making the pass rush stronger.
Giving this newest addition a B- on the Grade Scale
Marcus Mariota (2 year 17.6 Million, 7.5 Million Guaranteed)
Here’s a question. Why are the raiders paying this man over 7 million dollars a year to exclusively back up Derek Carr? Raider fans, there is absolutely no threat of Mariota taking Carr’s starting job. Mariota has no threat at throwing the ball period.
Tennessee built their team to run the football, so for years it could mask the bad arm Mariota actually had. Fans were hoping this guy would take the next step as an NFL QB. Soon came the realization that he lost his job to Ryan Tannehill.
In fact he was ranked as the 27th overall QB in PFF and Derek Carr sat at 11. If you needed him for a few games because Carr got hurt it’s not a bad option. If Carr goes down for the year the season is over without a doubt. Mariota is not going to be the savior.
Giving this newest addition to this team just because I’m being nice a D+ on the Grade Scale
Jason Witten (1 Year, 4 Million $)
Oh Boy…The Raiders are only paying him a one-year, $4 million deal that includes $3.5 million fully guaranteed. But I am just trying to find out why. I understand that Witten is one of Gruden’s boy’s, but come on lets be real here. A 37 year old veteran won’t be anything more than just another coach on the sideline.
Witten somewhat proved last season that he might still have a little bit of gas left in his tank. While reeling in 63 catches with 529 yards receiving, he still showed that a little bit of athleticism left in him. Plus he was still a semi decent blocker on the run. The raiders already have themselves a top 10 tight end in Darren Waller. They also have a decent backup of Foster Moreau who caught 5 touchdowns last season.
I see Witten more as a liability in most passing situations because of his inability to get open and his break in his routes aren’t the same like they were 10 years ago.
Giving this newest edition a D on the Grade Scale
Overall Off season Rating so far: B-
The Raiders this free agency overpaid for a backup quarterback and tight end. Combining the two salaries and the Raiders spent $10 million in bad free agent signings. Which they could have spent their free agency dollars somewhere else. Like bringing in Linval Joseph or an Everson Griffen on a 1 year deal.
He made some pretty great moves to upgrade their defense with the Linebacking Corp which will be refreshing to see two coverage Linebackers on the field in 2020. I like almost all of these offseason signees but we still didn’t accomplish the lack of a WR1 and a CB1, but I trust Gruden’s ability with their two first round picks to give his team what they need to fill those two voids.
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