It’s been almost a decade since the Raiders fielded a top pass defense and based on 2019’s performance, it still could be a while until they do. While subpar coaching can definitely be blamed, the team’s inability to draft a strong defensive back is likely the biggest reason they’ve struggled to slow down quarterbacks. The team has invested heavily in the position in the draft and the results have been not so great.
Perhaps it’s time the Raiders look to free agency or the trade market for proven talent at defensive back. One name to keep an eye on is Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay. He’s entering the final year of his contract and he’s expected to get a big payday once it expires. Sports Illustrated projected him to get a contract in the $15 to $16 million a year range, which would make him among the highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL. However, he doesn’t think that’s enough.
Slay has gone to three straight Pro Bowls and has been first-team All-Pro in the past. He’s certainly among the best pass defenders in the NFL. If the Lions decide they don’t want to give him what he’s asking for, Raiders Pro Bowl right tackle Trent Brown thinks his team will target him.
Trade or Wait Until Free Agency?
The biggest hurdle the Raiders face if they want to add Slay is that he’s still under contract with the Lions through the 2020 season. That means if the team wants him now, they’ll have to make a trade. Considering Jalen Ramsey cost the Los Angeles Rams two first-round picks, Slay’s price won’t be much cheaper.
Take into account that Slay is already 29-years old and it’s almost impossible to imagine that Raiders general manager Mike Mayock will give up a first-round pick for him. Las Vegas is better off waiting for free agency. Both Slay and Ramsey are set to hit free agency after the season, so the team will have a couple of strong options. Ramsey has already expressed interest in going to the Raiders, but Slay would probably cost a little bit less.
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Would Raiders Be Willing to Pay Him?
There’s no question that Slay deserves to be paid like one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. However, there have been many cases over the last decade of teams overpaying for cornerbacks and being stuck with bloated contracts. Just look at Trumaine Johnson with the New York Jets and Josh Norman with the Washington Redskins. As much as Slay could help improve the Raiders secondary, the team shouldn’t break the bank for him. He’s not going to be in his prime much longer and while he most likely has a few more Pro Bowls left in him, the Raiders are built off youth and Slay can’t provide that.
If the team is going to spend big on a cornerback, it should the aforementioned Jalen Ramsey. He wants to be a Raider, he’s only 25 and it’s going to be a long time before his play starts to diminish.