The NFL’s free agency legal tampering window opened on Monday, allowing teams to negotiate future contracts that can become official as soon as Wednesday, the start of the new league year. So how did the Raiders do on Day 1 of free agency?
The Raiders entered free agency with $33.7 million in cap space — the seventh-most in the NFL. With positional needs at nearly every level of the defense and retooling along the offensive line, the Raiders clearly need a surplus of new additions.
Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have been aggressive in free agency each of the last two years. However, their return on investment has been quite underwhelming. Perhaps two consecutive offseasons of not hitting on key free agents have tamed their recent tendencies.
This year on Day 1 of free agency, the Raiders reportedly reached an agreement on a two-year, $26 million contract with edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
While Las Vegas did sign a highly coveted sack artist in Ngakoue, the Raiders let a crop of pass rushers go elsewhere before jumping into the mix and signing him. And by doing so, they received good value in comparison to the average salary of the other edge-rushers on the market.
Just two years ago, the Raiders made Trent Brown the highest-paid right tackle nearly minutes into the free agency window opening. Their approach this year appears to be much more appropriate for not being locked into a longterm deal, providing more cap space flexibility, while still getting an impact player. That’s a win-win situation for Las Vegas.
As for Ngakoue’s fit with the Raiders, he immediately becomes the No. 1 pass-rusher and enters a system he’s once played in before. Ngakoue has experience in defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s 4-3 front, coaching him as a rookie in 2016 with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Bradley’s Cover 3 scheme doesn’t offer many blitz packages, which makes the signing of Ngakoue’s caliber all that more instrumental.
Ngakoue spent his first four seasons with the Jaguars, before being dealt to the Vikings last season and then flipped once more to the Ravens, where he finished the year. Even with the movement between the two teams, he remained a force off the edge. Ngakoue recorded eight sacks, 11 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles, and 23 tackles. Pro Football Focus, also tabbed him with 42 quarterback pressures.
Pairing Ngakoue with some form of Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell would likely indicate the Raiders won’t target a defensive end in the early rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.