Don’t look now, but the Las Vegas Raiders are one of the hottest teams in the NFL. It’s no surprise that the offense is one of the best in the league. What is surprising is how well the defense is playing. Through two games, the group has five sacks and forced three turnovers. If the defense can continue to play like a top 20 unit in the NFL, the Raiders will be in the playoffs.
Head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have shown a willingness to swing big on defense this offseason with the additions of Gerald McCoy, K.J. Wright and Denzel Perryman shortly before the season started. Now that it looks like the Raiders are for real, the team could take another swing.
The 6’2″, 245-pound linebacker is just 26 years old as he starts the sixth season of his pro career. He was a Pro Bowler in 2019 and has been productive in each of the last three seasons. He started all 48 games, amassing 417 tackles, eight sacks, five fumble recoveries, four forced fumbles and a pair of interceptions.
The Raiders could dangle defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell. The No. 4 overall pick in 2019 was a healthy scratch in the season opener. While he handled it well publicly, getting a fresh start may be the best option for both parties. Ferrell has a cap hit of $8.6 million in 2021.
Dallas reportedly received plenty of calls about its linebacking corps this summer, so the Raiders will want to get a trade done quickly.
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Raiders Don’t Need an LB
Smith has been a solid player for the Cowboys but he’s declined in each of the last three seasons. He had an 84.0 grade on Pro Football Focus in 2018, then dropped to 70.2 in 2019 but still made the Pro Bowl. Last season, he graded at a 54.2. Now, the Cowboys’ defense as a whole took a major step back so that might not be totally on Smith. If this was last season, the Raiders should be all over a possible difference-maker at linebacker.
However, that’s not the case this season. The team has a solid linebacker corps between Cory Littleton, Wright and Perryman. Nick Kwiatkoski provides some nice depth and Nicholas Morrow should be returning from injury soon. Linebacker may be the Raiders’ deepest unit on defense right now so trading for Smith doesn’t make a ton of sense. If the team is looking to make a move, it should be to add more depth in the secondary or defensive line.
Should Ferrell Be on the Trade Block?
At this point, it looks like Ferrell will never live up to his draft status. He was a healthy scratch in Week 1 and only played 12 snaps in Week 2. He didn’t make any notable plays in those 12 snaps.
The Raiders are thrilled with Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue. Those should be the team’s starting defensive ends for years to come. Ferrell could provide some depth as a solid run defender but if a team is willing to trade for him, the Raiders should listen. He wouldn’t net them anything great but it’s clear that the defensive end isn’t in the team’s future plan. Getting something for him now would be better than letting his contract expire after next season.