Throughout the offseason, the Las Vegas Raiders were linked to some big-name cornerbacks. The team’s pass defense has struggled for years and they have failed to find good cornerbacks in the draft. Last season, Casey Hayward was Las Vegas’ best cornerback.
The two-time Pro Bowler followed defensive coordinator Gus Bradley from the Los Angeles Chargers to the Raiders. He ended up being one of their best additions. He only allowed two touchdowns in coverage all season, per Pro Football Focus. Even though the Raiders changed defensive coordinators this offseason, they were wanting to bring Hayward back, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
He ended up going back to his hometown Atlanta Falcons. He’s 32 now and only has so many seasons left in the tank so it’s logical that he’d want to play close to home. However, that could be bad news for the Raiders. Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report predicts that the team will regret not signing Hayward in free agency:
The Raiders made moves to get younger at the position. Anthony Averett (27) and Rock Ya-Sin (26) are two promising players who should help in the secondary.
However, given the two-year, $11 million deal Hayward signed with the Atlanta Falcons, the Raiders could have afforded to keep him and still pursue other options.
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Will Raiders Regret Not Re-Signing Hayward?
Hayward was an integral part of the Raiders’ playoff run last season. If he wasn’t with the team, it’s very possible they don’t win as many games. He was without question an impact player for Las Vegas. However, they shouldn’t regret not being able to re-sign him too much.
Hayward has had his most success in Bradley’s defense which is zone-heavy. New defensive coordinator Patrick Graham prefers man coverage. That’s not what Hayward does best. Yes, he still could’ve been an impact player but it’s also possible that he wasn’t a fit in Graham’s defense. It’s never a bad thing to have good players but losing Hayward won’t make or break the defense.
Nate Hobbs Predicted to Make Pro Bowl
The loss of Hayward will hurt a lot less if some young players step up. The biggest candidate for a breakout season in the Raiders’ secondary is Nate Hobbs. The second-year cornerback impressed in training camp last year before taking hold of the starting slot cornerback spot. He quickly became one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL. Graham is now having Hobbs play on the outside and all over the field. Pro Football Focus is predicting that Hobbs could be in line for his first Pro Bowl selection this season.
A real bright spot on the Raiders last season was rookie cornerback Nate Hobbs’ play, as he trailed only Maxx Crosby in terms of PFF grade on defense. Hobbs primarily lined up in the slot and allowed just 8.5 yards per catch on the season. The Raiders ran a very predictable defense last season, but with a new coaching staff, Hobbs could see a benefit from a little more variety in terms of coverages. Hobbs has the talent to be one of the best slot corners in the league, and that could see him find a spot in the Pro Bowl.