Free agency has pretty much wrapped up for the Las Vegas Raiders and they made some very notable moves. The biggest moves came on the defensive side of the ball as the team spent big to try and fix the linebacker corps. Signing former Los Angeles Rams linebacker Cory Littleton was easily the biggest move the team made as he fits a huge need and is one of the better linebackers in the NFL.
Chris Roling of Bleacher Report ranked the move as the fifth-best move in the NFL Offseason by any team:
Cory Littleton, one of the league’s best coverage linebackers, landed a three-year, $36 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders last month.
Yet the Raiders smartly structured their pact with the 26-year-old, including a potential out after the 2021 campaign to essentially make it a two-year contract worth $23.5 million.
Paying a little under $12 million per year to Littleton is a boon for a team that chased its own tail in 2019 trying to upgrade one of the worst linebacking corps with guys like Brandon Marshall, Vontaze Burfict and Preston Brown.
Now, at a reasonable cost, the Raiders get an in-his-prime linebacker who has played at least 94 percent of his team’s defensive snaps in each of the last two seasons, allowed just 61 completions on 85 targets last year and received a 78.9 grade at Pro Football Focus.
Littleton is a unit-changing upgrade for a squad that allowed 26.2 points per game in 2019 (eighth-most leaguewide) yet still won seven games.
The most exciting part of the Littleton signing is how little the Raiders had to invest in his contract. He will come in and easily be the best linebacker the team has had in over a decade.
Other Strong Free Agency Moves
The signing of Nick Kwiatkowski was a sneaky good move from the Raiders early in free agency and he should pair very nicely with Littleton. Both linebackers do well in coverage and what was once a major weakness for the team is now a strength. Kwiatkowski is still slightly unproven as he’s never been a starter for an entire season, but he showed a lot of promise in 2019 and should keep getting better.
Bringing in Maliek Collins was another overlooked move by the Raiders that should pay off big time. He’s not a big name, but he knows how to create pressure on the interior of the defensive line. That’s something the Raiders need and he should make it happen while hardly costing anything.
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Worst Move of Free Agency
As of the writing of this, the Raiders have not signed a single cornerback during free agency. They had a deal in place with Eli Apple, but that fell through. The team also tried to sign Byron Jones, but couldn’t match what the Miami Dolphins offered him. They reportedly attempted to trade for Darius Slay but also missed out on him.
That leaves Trayvon Mullen and Nevin Lawson as the projected starters for 2020. Mullen has a ton of upside and should get better in year two, but Lawson should be a depth player. The Raiders will now have to look to the draft to address the position and it remains to be seen if they’ll find a day one starter. It’s really risky to play in a division with Patrick Mahome and not have the starting cornerback situation figured out.