For the most part, the Las Vegas Raiders did a very good job in free agency. They didn’t feel the need to bring back any underwhelming veterans and they didn’t hand out any ridiculous contracts. The team addressed a couple of big needs and turned a big weakness at linebacker into a strength. However, it wasn’t perfect for the Raiders. According to Brad Gagnon of Bleacher Report, the team may have weakened the safety position:
The Las Vegas Raiders gave up on 2016 top-15 pick Karl Joseph, which is curious. The 26-year-old safety has disappointed, but he flashed just enough as a run-defender to avoid the bust label in his first four seasons in Oakland.
It would be one thing if the Raiders let Joseph walk because they weren’t willing to pay a premium for his services, but the West Virginia product landed a mere one-year, $2.5 million deal in Cleveland. And instead, the Raiders signed the soon-to-be 29-year-old Jeff Heath to a two-year, $6 million contract.
Heath, who has just one interception and one forced fumble in his last 31 games, has a much lower ceiling than Joseph.
The Raiders might soon wonder if they would have been better off with the status quo beyond Lamarcus Joyner and Johnathan Abram at that position.
Giving up Karl Joseph for Jeff Heath is certainly questionable. Joseph was never a great fit for Paul Guenther’s defense, but he was getting better with each year. If he would’ve come back to the Raiders on a similar deal he got from the Cleveland Browns, it seems like a mistake to let him walk.
Will Raiders Add Another Safety?
Jeff Heath has a lot of experience as a starter and Johnathan Abram could still be a star, but it still fills like the Raiders need to add more talent at the safety position. Abram coming back healthy should really help the position, but it remains to be seen how much of an impact Heath will have.
If the Raiders feel like he’s better suited in a backup role, they could look to some intriguing free agents. Former All-Pro safety Eric Berry has still yet to find a home. He missed all of 2019 after getting let go by the Kansas City Chiefs because of injury issues. Perhaps a year off gave him time to get healthy. He’s only 31, so he could still have one or two more Pro Bowls left in him.
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Raiders Could Potentially Draft a Safety
The Raiders could be done addressing safety in free agency, but that doesn’t mean they’ll ignore the position in the draft. Charley Casserly of NFL.com did a recent mock draft and pegged Grant Delpit of LSU as the Raiders’ pick at number 19 in the first round:
The Raiders have done a nice job of addressing needs in free agency, but I’d take Delpit over recent signee Jeff Heath at safety.
Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden like players with a championship pedigree. Delpit isn’t as exciting as some other safeties to come out of LSU, but he’s a strong run defender and if he can fix his tackling issues, he could be one of the better safeties in the NFL.
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