The Las Vegas Raiders played it relatively safe during the first day of the legal tampering period of free agency, but they’ve finally made the big splash that’s been hinted at all offseason. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, former Los Angeles Rams Pro Bowler Cory Littleton has agreed to come to Las Vegas.
The rumor was that Littleton was trying to receive something in the $14 million per year range, so the Raiders coming to terms with him at $11.75 million is a great move for them. Littleton will now join Nick Kwiatkoski as the two newest Raiders linebackers. Together, they should help completely change the face of the defense. What was once the team’s biggest weakness has quickly become one of its strengths.
Littleton Is Excellent in Pass Defense
One thing is clear based on how the Raiders have addressed their defense in free agency – they want to improve pass defense. Raider linebackers have been embarrassed by tight ends for years now. Three former linebackers in Jack Del Rio, Reggie McKenzie and Ken Norton Jr. couldn’t figure out how to fix the position, but it looks like Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock finally have.
In Littleton, not only do the Raiders get a strong pass-defending linebacker, they might just be getting one of the best in the game as Andy Benoit explains below.
The AFC West is loaded with tight end talent, so it was paramount that the Raiders figure out how to stop them. Travis Kelce and Hunter Henry won’t have it as easy over the middle of the field anymore. Kwiatkoski is no slouch in the passing game either as he used to play safety before transitioning to linebacker. This has been a great free agency for the Raiders defense so far.
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Draft Needs Change Focus
With the additions of Littleton and Kwiatkoski, the Raiders no longer need to address linebacker early in the draft. The team has been linked to prospects Patrick Queen and Kenneth Murray, but the team would be better off filling more pressing needs in the first round.
After missing out on Byron Jones, the Raiders still have a big need at cornerback. That could change if they trade for Darius Slay or sign Chris Harris Jr., but if that doesn’t happen, they need to take one early in the draft. Also, with Karl Joseph testing the free-agent market, the team could have a need at safety if he walks. There are a couple of interesting options, like Tony Jefferson, in free agency who the Raiders could go after, but they seem to be taking their time addressing that need. Cornerback and linebacker have clearly been what the team is mainly looking to improve.
If the Raiders fill up their safety and cornerback needs in free agency, then the team taking two wide receivers with their first two picks in the draft seems very possible. There aren’t many strong options available on the market and this draft is loaded with potentially elite talent. The Raiders aren’t messing around and have a really good shot at getting back to the playoffs in 2020.