Raiders Pushed to Sign Former DPOY or CB With 115 Career Starts

stephon gilmore

Getty NFL free agent CB Stephon Gilmore.

As the Las Vegas Raiders work through organized team activities, they should have a better idea of the strength of their cornerback group. Cornerback has been talked about as a need for the team all offseason but they’ve done little to address it.

That could be due to them wanting to add a veteran free agent. There are a number of good cornerbacks still in free agency. Matt Holder of Bleacher Report believes the Raiders need to sign either Stephon Gilmore or Steven Nelson.

The Athletic’s Tashan Reed reported that Las Vegas began OTAs with Brandon Facyson and Jakorian Bennett getting the first-team reps at cornerback,” Holder wrote in a May 25 column. “Facyson missed the majority of last season with an injury, and Bennett began the year as a starter but played his way onto the bench.

“Granted, those two were are expected to battle it out for the other starting spot opposite of Jack Jones, who sat out of practice this week with an injury, per Reed. But Jones also lacks starting experience, giving the Raiders a need for a proven No. 1 corner and Nelson or Gilmore would be the front office’s best options at this stage in the game.”

Stephon Gilmore or Steven Nelson?

Out of the two cornerbacks Holder listed as fits for the Raiders, Gilmore is the more decorated. He was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 and is a five-time Pro Bowler. He’s 33 now which is around the age when cornerbacks start to lose a step. Gilmore isn’t the player he once was but has proven he can still be a dependable starter. He started all 17 games for a top-five Dallas Cowboys defense last season.

Nelson doesn’t have the accolades that Gimore has but he’s certainly no slouch. He’s started in 115 career games for four different teams; most recently with the Houston Texans. He’s never been a Pro Bowler but has carved out a starting role on every team he’s played for. He’s also a bit younger than Gilmore at 31.

Gilmore would be the flashier signing and makes sense in defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s defense. Graham learned under Bill Belichick, who was Gilmore’s coach when he was the Defensive Player of the Year.

What About Xavien Howard?

One option that Holder didn’t discuss was Xavien Howard. He actually played under Graham when they were with the Miami Dolphins in 2019. He should understand the defense so it would be an easy fit.

Howard is still only 30 and has led the NFL in interceptions twice. The only major concern with him is his injury history. He dealt with a foot injury to end last season and the Dolphins decided to cut him. He only missed four games last season but there could be concern about the foot.

At this point, a player like Howard would be worth the risk. He’s been one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL and should still have a year or two left to be an impact player. Plus, his price should be way down this late in free agency. He may be more expensive than Gilmore or Nelson but he may also be the best fit.

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