The Las Vegas Raiders made some strides under Gus Bradley last season as they were a respectable unit led by Maxx Crosby and Denzel Perryman. Despite the success, new head coach Josh McDaniels decided not to retain Bradley and replaced him with Patrick Graham. Graham is considered one of the best young defensive coaches in the NFL but he runs a very different defense than Bradley.
A major reason the defense has been consistently bad has been due to a lack of talent. That shouldn’t be the case this season as the Raiders added some good pieces, most notably Chandler Jones. However, they could still need more help. Perryman is coming off a Pro Bowl season and should be one of the leaders of the defense. It remains to be seen who the other starting linebackers will be. 2021 third-round pick Divine Deablo started some games at the end of last season and played well. He could earn a prominent role but it remains to be seen how Graham views him.
There’s a linebacker in free agency who Graham will be much more familiar with. Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus believes that the Raiders should consider signing former New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
“Hightower, like Jamie Collins, is a player who could benefit from playing in a New England-style defense, and former Patriots assistant Patrick Graham is now heading Las Vegas’ unit,” Kyed wrote. “Hightower, 32, would probably be best used as an early-down run thumper or a situational blitzer at this point in his career.”
ALL the latest Raiders news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on Raiders newsletter here!
Hightower Familiar With Raiders Coaching Staff
This isn’t the first time Hightower has been linked to the Raiders. He makes a lot of sense in Las Vegas. He spent 10 years with the Patriots and Graham was his linebackers coach from 2014 to 2015. He’s also won three Super Bowls with McDaniels.
Hightower is likely past his prime but he was once one of the best linebackers in the NFL, being named to the Pro Bowl in 2016 and 2019. He’s 32 now and could be thinking about retirement but the Raiders should be appealing to him. He’d get to go to an up-and-coming team and play for coaches who he knows well.
Raiders Will Likely Wait Until Training Camp to Make Moves
The Raiders have made a lot of moves this offseason but have been quiet in recent weeks. In all likelihood, the team is waiting until training camp to further evaluate the roster before making more moves. The linebacker room appears to be solid so that might not be the first position the team addresses.
The secondary will be a position group to watch. There are a number of capable young veterans but no proven stars in the group. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Raiders target a cornerback and possibly another safety. However, it’s possible that the coaching staff wants upgrades at any level of the defense once they see them in pads for the first time.