The Las Vegas Raiders decided against being big spenders in free agency this year. While that’s a strategy that can be successful, the team does have some holes left, specifically on defense. Cornerback is a position group that has been addressed as extensively as many expected.
The Raiders decided against drafting cornerback Christian Gonzalez with their first-round pick in favor of adding defensive end Tyree Wilson. The team did add one cornerback Jakorian Bennett in the fourth round but it’s unlikely they have big plans to start him this year. If Las Vegas isn’t content with its current group of cornerbacks, there are options in free agency. Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report believes that the Raiders should pursue Casey Hayward in free agency.
“The Raiders should strongly consider reuniting with cornerback Casey Hayward,” Knox wrote. “The new regime didn’t bring him back in 2022, and Hayward signed a two-year, $11 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons in free agency.”
Hayward was on the Raiders in 2021 but left for the Atlanta Falcons last season. Though he’s 33 now, Knox still believes he can help the team:
In Las Vegas, Hayward was a dependable 17-game starter who recorded 46 tackles, nine passes defended and an interception. He only played six games with the Falcons before being lost to a shoulder injury, but he was again solid, allowing an opposing passer rating of only 80.7 in coverage.
Hayward hasn’t allowed an opposing passer rating above 94.0 in any of the last five seasons.
Does Hayward Still Have Anything Left in the Tank?
Hayward was once one of the top cornerbacks in the league. He was a back-to-back All-Pro from 2016 and 2017 and earned a $33 million contract from the Los Angeles Chargers in 2018. He hasn’t been named to an All-Pro team or made a Pro Bowl since 2017 but he has remained a solid player.
He was very good for the Raiders in 2021 but they had Gus Bradley as their defensive coordinator at the time, who was also his defensive coordinator in Los Angeles. He was a good fit in that defense but not be as good of a fit under Patrick Graham. That said, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler did report the Raiders tried to re-sign sign him last year but he decided to play closer to home. Even at 33, he’d be a good player for the team to have. He’s a veteran leader and can still play some good football. Plus, he wouldn’t cost very much money.
Is Patrick Graham Coaching for His Job?
Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has one of the toughest jobs in the NFL. The Raiders haven’t had a great defense in two decades and haven’t exactly spent that much money to fix the problem. The team doesn’t have the best defensive personnel in the league so Graham and his staff are going to have to work hard to get some young players to reach the next level.
The problem for Graham is that he could already be on the hot seat. The Raiders’ defense wasn’t good last season and there were already questions about his future. He kept his job but if the team is bad once again, there may need to be a scapegoat. If the defense hasn’t improved, there’s a strong possibility that Graham is that scapegoat.