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Las Vegas Raiders: Top 10 targets for 2022 free agency

Moe Moton

In a couple of weeks, general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels will leave their first imprints on the Las Vegas Raiders‘ new era.

How will the Raiders spend their money in free agency? Will they splurge as the New England Patriots did under Ziegler last offseason? Does the new regime go conservative with older veterans as it remodels the roster?

As the anticipation builds, let’s dive into the free-agent pool.

Related: Find out where Las Vegas Raiders land in 2022 NFL power rankings

Based on the Raiders’ position needs and tendencies of the coaches on staff, which impending free agents belong on the team’s radar going into March?

In priority order, the list below highlights the top 10 targets plus one honorable mention as ideal fits for the Silver and Black.

1. J.C. Jackson, cornerback

NFL: Pro Bowl-AFC Practice
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Among the top potential free-agent targets, J.C. Jackson will likely cost the most against the cap. If he hits the open market, several teams will pursue him after a Pro Bowl (second-team All-Pro) campaign with a league-leading 23 pass breakups and eight interceptions, allowing a 49.1 percent completion rate in coverage.

Like Casey Hayward Jr. did for the Raiders last year in a heavy zone coverage scheme, Jackson can lock down his side of the field as well but as a top-notch defender in man coverage, which is something that likely appeals to defensive coordinator Patrick Graham:

Jackson is tied with Everson Walls and Raider great Lester Hayes for most interceptions (25) in the first four seasons of a pro career. Vegas had the fewest interceptions (six) in 2021—the defense needs a ball hawk on the back end.

2. Allen Robinson, wide receiver

NFL: Chicago Bears at Pittsburgh Steelers
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Allen Robinson II is a more realistic free-agent option than Adams. Unlike wideouts Chris Godwin (torn ACL and MCL damage) and Michael Gallup (torn ACL), he’s not coming off a significant injury either.

Some skeptics have concerns about Robinson’s inconsistent production, but he’s racked up 1,147-plus receiving yards in three out of eight seasons with Blake Bortles, Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles, Andy Dalton and rookie Justin Fields as his primary quarterbacks. He actually led the league in touchdowns (14) for the 2015 season with Bortles.

Now imagine what Robinson could do with an established starter under center. With Carr, he could easily clear 1,200 yards with a double-digit touchdown total because of his sure hands and size (6’2″, 220 lbs).

If the Raiders want a go-to wideout still in his prime (28 years old), Robinson should rank atop of their free-agent list.

3. Tyrann Mathieu, safety

NFL: Pro Bowl-AFC Practice
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Since signing with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019, Tyrann Mathieu has been a thorn in the Raiders’ side over the past three seasons, but you have to respect his game. He’s earned All-Pro nods in two of the last three seasons with 13 interceptions and 27 pass breakups in that stretch.

Do you notice a theme with the targeted defensive backs? They tend to force turnovers, which the Raiders have struggled to do in recent campaigns.

Going into his age-30 term, Mathieu can still play at a high level, and he’s arguably the most versatile safety in the league with the ability to make plays deep, in the box and in the slot.

This past season, Mathieu lined up for 438 snaps in the box, 280 snaps at free safety and 206 snaps in the slot, per Pro Football Focus. Similar to Logan Ryan with the New York Giants, he could become a leader and a savvy playmaker for Graham, who’s used a lot of three-safety (big nickel) looks in the past.

4. Morgan Moses, right tackle

NFL: New York Jets at New York Giants
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

If Ziegler wants a starter or veteran insurance at right tackle, Morgan Moses fits the bill. The 30-year-old hasn’t missed a game since the 2014 season.

According to Pro Football Focus, Moses hasn’t allowed more than five sacks in any of his eight seasons and gave up four in 2021. He’s not a star player, but the veteran tackle is far better than anyone on Vegas’ roster at the position and still performs exceptionally well as a run-blocker.

Moses can serve as a short-term option at right tackle in front of a developing rookie if Alex Leatherwood makes a permanent move to right guard.

5. Charvarius Ward, cornerback

NFL: AFC Wild Card Playoffs-Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s continue to dip into the Kansas City Chiefs secondary for a defender who’s equipped to line up one-on-one with receivers on the perimeter in Charvarius Ward.

In 2021, Ward recorded 10 pass breakups and two interceptions to match the numbers from his breakout 2019 campaign as a starter. For both seasons, he allowed a completion rate below 52 percent in coverage.

Unlike Jackson, Ward isn’t going to command a top-dollar salary because he doesn’t have All-Pro or Pro Bowl accolades with league-leading numbers in interceptions or pass breakups. Nevertheless, the 25-year-old is still on the rise as a complete cornerback who challenges receivers on an island and tackles well all over the field, logging 222 tackles while missing just 10 in four seasons.

6. Ted Karras, interior offensive lineman

NFL: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Ted Karras seems like a probable signing for the Raiders because of his deep ties to the Patriots. He’s played five seasons with the club, leaving Foxboro for the Miami Dolphins in 2020 only to return last year.

Karras has a rapport with McDaniels and showed improvement under offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo, who led the Patriots’ group this past season. He’s also played all three interior line positions, which makes him a potential starter at either guard spot alongside center Andre James.

Because of Karras’ familiarity with the coaching staff and Vegas’ recent issues along the offensive line, he’s exactly what the Raiders need to revamp the unit.

7. Connor Williams, offensive guard

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals
Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports

Coming out of Texas as a tackle, Connor Williams has handled his transition to guard well in four years with the Dallas Cowboys. He’s helped pave the way for a ground attack that ranked top 10 in yards for three of the past four seasons.

The Cowboys have lost All-Pro center Travis Frederick (retired in 2020) and played 20 of their last 33 contests without two-time All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith. Yet, they’ve won in the trenches with guard Zack Martin on the right side and Williams on the left.

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Williams would give the Raiders an upgrade over left guard John Simpson and some versatility at tackle in case injuries ravage the offensive line group.

8. DJ Chark, wide receiver

NFL: Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

DJ Chark Jr. could fly under the radar with all the buzz surrounding Adams, Godwin and Gallup, but the Raiders may value the speedy receiver’s ability to stretch the field.

At 6’4″, 198 pounds, Chark doesn’t look like an imposing threat, but he’s a big-play receiver who’s still in the early stages of development going into his age-25 term. With that said, the fourth-year pro already has a (2019) Pro Bowl season on his resume.

Related: See who Las Vegas Raiders pick in our latest mock draft

In Week 4 of this past campaign, Chark fractured his ankle, and he’s missed 22 career games. The Raiders may want to offer him a one- or two-year deal to see how his health and durability hold up.

If Waller and Renfrow command most of the targets, Chark could round out a solid pass-catching trio with his explosiveness on the perimeter, leaving wideout Bryan Edwards and tight end Foster Moreau to fill in the gaps as the fourth and fifth options in the passing game.

9. Austin Johnson, defensive tackle

NFL: New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Johnson just had his best season under Graham, logging career highs in multiple statistical categories, including, tackles (72), tackles for loss (six) and sacks (3.5).

In 2021, the Giants traded defensive tackle B.J. Hill, who went on to have a productive season with the Cincinnati Bengals, but Johnson emerged as a first-time starter and played well in a bigger role. He’s a second-round pick from the 2016 draft who spent his first four campaigns with the Tennessee Titans. Perhaps Graham has tapped into his skill set, which makes him a viable target for the Raiders who need to rebuild their defensive line.

10. D.J. Jones, defensive tackle

NFL: NFC Championship-San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After two seasons in mostly a reserve role, D.J. Jones carved out a spot with the San Francisco 49ers’ starting unit over the past three years.

In 2021, Jones played through his first full season, logging career highs in tackles (56) and tackles for loss (10). At 27 years old, he’s still in his prime and capable of more growth with an expanded workload.

Graham needs big bodies on the interior of his defensive line. He could use a stout run defender in Jones, who’s a stocky 6’0″, 305 pounds in the middle.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Raiders, check out #RaiderNation rumors, rankings, and news here.

Honorable Mention: WR Davante Adams

A lot of Raiders fans want to see a Fresno State reunion between quarterback Derek Carr and Davante Adams in Las Vegas. While that sounds great, Ziegler would have to go bargain-bin shopping for the foreseeable future with the star wideout commanding around $30 million annually and his current signal-caller reportedly set to make $40-plus million a year.

Keep in mind, the Raiders will likely sign edge-rusher Maxx Crosby, wideout Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller to lucrative extensions within the next year. A Carr-Adams pairing would excite the fanbase, but the idea doesn’t seem feasible with multiple needs to address in the short term. Nevertheless, if Adams hits the open market, the Raiders should at least reach out to him.

Maurice Moton covers the Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.