Fresh off a surprise playoff appearance, the Las Vegas Raiders have a new power structure in place. The team has hired Josh McDaniels to be its next head coach with Dave Ziegler following the head coach from New England to become the Raiders’ next general manager.
Now that owner Mark Davis has made his decisions about the future of the franchise as the Raiders enter their third season in Las Vegas, focus now turns to what promises to be a busy offseason. Below, we look at three moves the Raiders must make this offseason to take that next step.
Related: Top NFL free agents of 2022
Las Vegas Raiders steal J.C. Jackson from the New England Patriots
The Pats have 14 players set to hit the unrestricted free-agent market come March. We can be pretty darn confident that the Raiders will look to poach a couple of these players as McDaniels and Ziegler create a new environment within the Raiders’ locker room.
Chief among them has to be this still-young 26-year-old cornerback. Coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance, Jackson will be among the most sought after NFL free agents on the market with New England unlikely to place the franchise tag on him.
- J.C. Jackson stats (2021): 58 tackles, 23 passes defended, eight interceptions, 46.8 QB rating allowed
Regardless of who their defensive coordinator is, signing Jackson would be an absolute coup for the Raiders. Here’s a unit that allowed 29 passing touchdowns against six interceptions a season ago. Vegas had to move off former first-round pick Damon Arnette due to off-field issues — another example of the previous regime’s struggles in player personnel. Projected to earn roughly $20 million annually as a free agent, Jackson wouldn’t come cheap. But he’d end up being a table setter in the defensive secondary.
Las Vegas Raiders find starting right tackle
A first-round pick this past April, Alex Leatherwood was expected to take over as the Raiders’ starting right tackle oppositve Kolton Miller. After struggling initially in that role, the former Alabama star excelled at guard. This is his position moving forward. It also creates a major void at right tackle with an inept Brandon Parker seeing a ton of action during the 2021 season. In fact, Parker allowed the highest pressure rate among offensive tackles a season ago.
The Raiders are currently slated to have $21.3 million in cap room. That will change with the new power structure in place. This includes likely releasing the likes of Corey Littleton, Carl Nassib and Nick Kwiatkoski. If designated as post-June 1 cuts, this would save a whopping $27 million. In short, Vegas will have money to spend on a starting right tackle.
Former Raider Trenton Brown joins the likes of Morgan Moses, Mike Remmers and Bobby Massie as potential cost-effective options in free agency. Slated to pick 22nd overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, Darian Kinnard (Kentucky) and Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa) are also options.
Las Vegas Raiders extend Derek Carr, draft QB of the future
Surprisingly, Derek Carr was seen as a major draw for McDaniels heading to Sin City. The new Raiders head coach likes the quarterback. And in reality, the leadership this three-time Pro Bowler displayed during a drama-filled 2021 season painted him in a great light. It also doesn’t hurt that Carr is slated to count a mere $19.88 million against the cap in 2022. That’s a bargain by today’s standards.
Even then, Vegas needs to look beyond the 2022 season. That could include signing Carr to a short-term contract extension at market value while adding a potential quarterback of the future in the coming 2022 NFL Draft. The idea would be to set up a line of succession.
As noted above, Vegas will be picking 22nd in the first round. In a draft void of top-end quarterback talent, there’s a chance one of the first rounders falls to the Raiders. That includes the likes of Mississippi’s Matt Corral and Sam Howell from North Carolina. This would be the most ideal scenario for the Las Vegas Raiders.