The Raider defense has been lackluster for several years straight now. There have been years where they’ve been decent against the run, but the fact that they’re so easy to throw on contributes to that. In a division that’s clearly run by the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs offense, pass defense is a necessity.
Luckily for the Raiders, there could be a number of excellent cornerback options on the market this offseason. One name to keep an eye on is Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay. The three-time Pro Bowler is reportedly available via trade and Pro Football Focus named the Raiders as a potential suitor for him:
“Three straight seasons of ranking dead last — that just can’t fly anymore. Their No. 1 outside corner, Daryl Worley, is set to be a free agent, and it might be best to let him walk. Worley was a poor performer in press-man coverage and allowed the most yards per coverage snap in the NFL on those reps in 2019.”
The Raiders can’t afford to continue fielding a weak pass defense. With young players like Johnathan Abram and Trayvon Mullen showing promise, the team has some has excitement in their secondary, but they’ll need some proven veteran help if they hope to stop opposing quarterbacks.
Darius Slay + Byron Jones
Adding Slay could do wonders for the Raider pass defense, but the team could go over the top and also add Byron Jones. The Pro Bowl cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys is hitting free agency. PFF suggested the Raiders try to add both Jones and Slay:
“Byron Jones has been floated as a potential option for Vegas. Jones has been among the five highest-graded outside corners over the last two seasons and would be a great addition to the Raiders. Pairing Slay and Jones together in Vegas would almost certainly see the end to the Raiders’ streak of poor seasons at the position.”
Pairing those two men would probably form the best cornerback tandem in the NFL. Add to the fact that Trayvon Mullen should keep getting better and the Raiders could go from having one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL to one of the best. Las Vegas has the assets to trade for Slay and the cap space to sign Jones. Plus, former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is currently employed by the Raiders which could work in their favor when trying to sign Jones.
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The Mahomes Effect
If they haven’t already, the Raiders need to come to terms with the reality that they’re going to have to deal with Patrick Mahomes for the next decade, maybe longer. The Chiefs quarterback is only 24 years old and has won an MVP and a Super Bowl. It’s highly unlikely he’s going to slow down anytime soon. The AFC West isn’t going to be easy for the Raiders to win while Mahomes is in it.
That’s why the team should strongly consider bolstering the pass defense. There’s no pass defense that can truly stop Mahomes, but adding Slay and Jones would certainly slow him down. Obviously, the Raiders still need to beef up the offense to keep up with the Chiefs, but building a top defense could be just as effective. This defense should be built around the idea of stopping Mahomes and the Chiefs’ weapons.