Raiders to Spend Big on Defense in Free Agency, Target Bengals LB: Report

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Getty Raiders GM Mike Mayock with Mark Davis.

After years of mediocrity on the defensive side of the ball, the Las Vegas Raiders may finally be ready to fix the issue. They released team captain and starting linebacker Tahir Whitehead to open up some cap space and that move makes it more clear that a linebacker overhaul is imminent. According to NFL insider Adam Caplan, the Raiders are about to use a big chunk of their $56 million in cap space on defense:

Las Vegas Raiders: The plan here, according to sources, is for them to spend relatively big on defense, while adding speed on offense at WR and depth at other positions.

The expectation is that they’ll attempt add a few mid-to-high priced players (they have interest in signing CB Byron Jones, for example, sources said) on defense.

There have been a number of rumors circulating about the Raiders’ interest in some of the top NFL free agents. However, it can be hard to believe considering Jon Gruden has never shown an interest in investing heavily in defense. This report would indicate that he’s seen enough and realizes the Raiders need a lot of help.

Keep an Eye on Nick Vigil

Las Vegas has holes all over the defense, but linebacker is without question the team’s biggest area of weakness. Only one linebacker from last season is still under contract and it seems really unlikely anybody is getting re-signed. The Raiders will almost certainly address the position in the draft, but they will also be players in free agency. Per Caplan, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther could want to reunite with a familiar face:

One LB believed to be on their radar is Nick Vigil (3rd-round pick in 2016), sources said. Not only is the 5th-year defender familiar with the Raiders defense, but from talking to personnel execs from around the NFL, he’s one of the better coverage LBs available in free agency.

Vigil played two seasons under Guenther when he was still with the Cincinnati Bengals. The linebacker was elevated to a starter after his rookie season, so it’s clear that Guenther likes him. It’s also clear that the defensive coordinator loves signing players he knew from his Bengals days. Just ask Vontaze Burfict, Reggie Nelson or Leon Hall. What’s most exciting about a potential Vigil addition is that he’s strong in coverage and he’ll be significantly cheaper than some of the top guys available. This move would make too much sense for the Raiders. Don’t be surprised if Vigil is wearing silver and black in 2020.

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Raiders Also Plan to Target WR

While the Raiders definitely need all the defensive help they can get, it’s no secret that they need a top wide receiver. To the surprise of no one, Caplan is reporting that they are planning on addressing the position:

While the Raiders will bring back WR Tyrell Williams for his second year, the Raiders, I’m told, want a player to stretch the field opposite him.

The Raiders haven’t been shy about how they need help at wide receiver. Unfortunately, there aren’t many strong options in free agency. The team will likely make a run at Robby Anderson, but he won’t completely fix the issue. Expect the Raiders to look at wide receivers early in the draft.

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