Lost in the Alex Leatherwood madness was another surprise move by the Las Vegas Raiders. Darius Phillips was the first player the team signed in free agency this offseason and the veteran cornerback was expected to compete for a starting spot. Instead, the team cut him outright as part of the final roster cuts.
The former Cincinnati Bengal didn’t last long on the free agent market. The Denver Broncos announced that they’ve signed Phillips to a contract on Thursday, September 1.
Phillips is signing to the active roster, not the practice squad. He’ll now be sharing a division with the Raiders and will have his chance at revenge in Week 4 when the team travels to Las Vegas. Phillips has played in 47 career games but only started in 10.
His best season came in 2019 when he had four interceptions in just eight games. However, he’s only had one other inception combined in his four seasons. He’ll be a veteran presence to add to an up-and-coming Broncos secondary.
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Raiders Voted as Worst Team in AFC West
Phillips won’t move the needle for the Broncos this season but it does bring up an interesting discussion about which team is the best in the AFC West.
While the Raiders added some major talent this offseason, many believe that they are the weakest squad in the division. The Athletic recently had NFL executives rank the teams in the AFC. The Raiders came in at eight, which is solid but they also had them ranked last among AFC West teams.
“They’ve got Davante Adams, Darren Waller and they got pass-rush with Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby,” a general manager said. “I’m kind of bullish on them.”
The Broncos came in at seventh, the Chargers at fourth and the Chiefs at second. While executives aren’t as high on the Raiders as the other AFC West teams, they do acknowledge that they have big-time potential.
“They can’t afford too many missteps based on how they are built and in the division they have to play,” another voter said. “What does it look like if they go on a three-game skid? On the positive, they have an ability to be one of the best pass offenses in the league, the type of team where you say, ‘We gotta hold them under 30.'”
Raiders Being Underestimated
It’s odd that the Raiders are consistently placed as the fourth-best team in the AFC West this offseason. They were one of only two teams in the division to reach the playoffs last season and beat the Chargers in the season finale. The Broncos haven’t been to the playoffs since 2015. There’s also no denying that the Raiders improved this offseason.
They hired an elite play-caller as head coach in Josh McDaniels and traded for Davante Adams. They have a chance to be one of the best offenses in the NFL. But what about the defense?
The Raiders’ defense has been bad for years but they have one of the top defensive coordinators in the NFL with Patrick Graham and two elite pass rusher in Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones. They also have up-and-coming young players like Tre’von Moehrig and Nate Hobbs.
The defense could be much better than expected. The Raiders still have a lot to prove but could surprise a lot of people this season.
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