The Las Vegas Raiders had a lot to build off of in 2020. They finally saw the level of production they were hoping to see out of Derek Carr and they managed to get some big wins against the New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, and Cleveland Browns throughout the course of the season. While the Raiders fell just short of the playoffs, there is still hope for Vegas’ newest franchise.
The ideal area the Raiders should probably target this offseason range through both sides of the ball, but primarily the defensive side. The Raiders need another wide receiver to compliment Henry Ruggs and Darren Waller, but most of their needs come defensively.
The Raiders aren’t getting the job done well enough in pass rushing, pass defense, or tackling, and by adding another linebacker, defensive tackle, and free safety they cold correct those needs.
Jon Gruden is one of the NFL’s best head coaches and he knows what needs to be done if the team wants to be a playoff contender as soon as next season. If he adds a few key pieces to his team, the sky is the limit for this youthful Vegas squad.
Here’s a look at four players the Las Vegas Raiders should sign in free agency.
Shaquil Barrett, Outside Linebacker
The Raiders struggled to get consistent pass rush from their defensive linemen and by adding one of the NFL’s best exterior linebackers, they could quickly turn that around. Shaquil Barrett, 28, has made a name for himself as one of the NFL’s best pass rushers over the past two years and his sudden emergence could give Jon Gruden the need to pull the trigger.
Barrett, a 2020 Pro Bowler, had a breakout season in 2019-20 and followed it up nicely with a solid campaign in 2020-21. Barrett logged 57 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 16 quarterback hits, one safety, two forced fumbles, three passes defended, and eight sacks this season and he could build off of that with a team like the Raiders.
Barrett is so athletic with his skill moves and quick edge ability that it will likely make him one of the highest paid edge rushers in the 2021 free agent class. Barrett has been vocal about wanting to remain in Tampa Bay, but if they can’t afford to pay him what he wants, a team like the Raiders should swoop in and snag him.
TY Hilton, Wide Receiver
The Las Vegas Raiders may need a wide receiver more so than any other position in this year’s free agency class and there is a lot of talent for them to choose from. There are several Pro Bowl wide receivers that will be available and the Raiders will be licking their chops at the idea of potentially snagging one.
With that being said, I think the best fit for the Raiders’ offense would be TY Hilton. Hilton is a very solid wide receiver who is a lunch pail, work horse kind of guy.
What you see out of Hilton is what you get. You can always count on Hilton to make the routine catches and go up to snag some difficult ones too. Hilton has spent his entire nine-year NFL career as a member of the Indianapolis Colts and his veteran leadership could prove to be beneficial for the Raiders’ air raid offense.
The Raiders are a very unpredictable team. One week they will lose to a team like the Falcons then the next knock off the reigning Super Bowl champions. By adding a guy like Hilton, their team would be much more stable and could legitimately make a run at a playoff appearance.
Justin Simmons, Safety
If the Raiders want to be able to stop some teams from throwing the ball all over them, they should probably address their glaring need at the free safety position. Erik Harris and Dallin Leavitt aren’t cutting it and they should use the free agency period to sign a guy so they know exactly what they’re going to get.
Justin Simmons is a guy who would be a perfect fit in Las Vegas. Simmons has a hard hitting style, but still has the ability to make a play on the football.
Simmons has started all 16 games in each of the past three seasons for the Denver Broncos, which is certainly no easy feat to accomplish. Simmons logged 96 tackles, three tackles for a loss, nine passes defended, and five interceptions this season in a year that would see him get nominated to his first ever Pro Bowl.
Simmons and Johnathan Abram would form an elite safety combination and make the Raiders a very tough team to throw the ball against. Simmons has a good chance at being the highest paid free safety this year and the Raiders should strongly consider being the team that pays him.
Ndamukong Suh, Defensive Tackle
The Las Vegas Raiders could use some help on their interior defensive line and one of the best, cheap options would be Ndamukong Suh. Suh, 34, has proven to be one of the best defensive tackles of the past decade and with his play style matching Jon Gruden’s coaching style, it seems like a match made in heaven.
Suh, a five-time Pro Bowler, would be able to not only have a major impact on the Raiders defensive line, but he would also be able to help mentor the youth they do have. Suh has made a living off of being a dominant run stuffer and his presence in the center of the defensive line would allow the youthful edge rushers they do have to spring open and make a play.
If Suh is within reach for the Raiders to sign, they should certainly do everything in their power to make that move happen. Suh’s old school style of play would mesh well with the hard hitting Vegas defense and he could help the team contend for not only the playoffs, but for a Super Bowl as well.