The Winter Report: Oakland Raiders Still Need Help on the Edge.

The Oakland Raiders still looking for help on the Edge.

Two weeks into the 2019 NFL season and the Oakland Raiders still need to fill a major hole in their defense. Edge rusher.

Two weeks ago the Raiders signed Josh Mauro, their only defensive end free agent acquisition to date. Mauro, a five year vet, is strong versus the run. However, he only has three sacks in five years, so it’s probably not a good idea to get your hopes up on that front.

Arden Key, entering his sophomore year, is the only other defensive end on the roster. There is still a possibility of restricted free agent Shilique Calhoun returning, but at this point that seems like a long shot. Calhoun had a great opportunity to truly prove himself last season, and yet was only able to appear in seven games without registering a sack before hitting IR in December. After that, there is James Cowser, who was brought back on a futures contract. Cowser will, once again, have an opportunity to compete in camp, but, so far, he has not been able to stay on the active roster.

What’s left in free agency.

So with that, what is left for the Raiders in free agency? The answer is not a lot. Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah appears to be the remaining double digit sack artist left. He is coming off a serious shoulder injury, that is still rehabbing. Aaron Lynch, a 5 year vet and only 26 years old, is another candidate that has already met with the Raiders. He left without a deal, but has not signed anywhere else yet. Until he inks with another team, there is still a chance he could circle back to the Raiders. After that, the pickings are slim with a few notables like Michael Johnson and Zach Moore. Johnson is a 10 year vet that has been in decline the past few seasons, but still has a connection to Raiders Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther. Moore, on the other hand, has spent four years on various practice squads. Last year, though, he played in all 16 games with the Arizona Cardinals and recorded 3.5 sacks. He is a true grinder, who has worked tirelessly to keep his NFL dream alive. Best part, Moore is only 27 and is 6’6 275. He might be worth a flier.

So its probably the Draft.

Regardless of who, if any at this point, the Raiders sign at defensive end, they are going to have to target the position in the 2019 draft. Luckily for General Manager Mike Mayock, and Coach Jon Gruden, this year’s draft is absolutely loaded with pass rushers. In fact, I would go so far as to say its the best crop of defensive end prospects that I can think of in the last 20 years. To put it in context, the 2014 draft was loaded with pass rushing talent, but does not even hold a candle to this year’s class of quarterback hunters.

Another huge advantage is that the Raiders hold four picks (4, 24, 27, 35) in the top 35.

With the 4th pick of the 2019 NFL draft the Raiders select?

The number and position of those picks pretty much puts the Raiders in contention for all the available edge prospects with the possible exception of Nick Bosa, Ohio State, and Josh Allen, Kentucky. Bosa in all likely hood will be snatched at number two by the San Francisco 49ers. Allen could be gobbled up by the Jets, if they decide not to trade out at number three. If either fall to the Raiders, it’s very possible Mayock pulls the trigger. That is if the Raiders are not offered the world for their number four pick. If both those two players are not available and the Raiders do not select a quarterback, or defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, Alabama, they could look at trading back a bit.

Trade scenarios are too numerous to mention, however it does create opportunities to draft second tier talent that will probably be no longer on the table. Prospects like Montez Sweat, Mississippi State, Brian Burns, Florida State, and Rashan Gary, Michigan will almost certainly be gone by the time the Raiders pick at 24.

At 24, 27, and 35, the Raiders select?

These three picks come just a bit late to grab about half of the second tier talent for the Edge/DE position. Clelin Ferrell, Clemson, could be one of those that are still available. Or should the Raiders choose, they could trade up less than ten spots and probably ensure his selection. Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech, Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion, and tweener Ed Oliver, Houston, should all probably be available.

Day two and beyond?

Not including pick 35, even though it is technically a day two pick, there are some potential starters to be had throughout the day. Chase Winovich, Michigan, Austin Bryant, Clemson, Christian Miller, Alabama, and D’Andre Walker, Georgia, are examples of solid day two notables. The trick for the Raiders will be accumulating a day two pick, or two. Currently the Raiders have #35 and that is it until day three (pick #66 was used with pick #141 to secure WR Antonio Brown). The Raiders are going to have to manufacture picks on day two, ether by trading back with earlier picks or packaging up later picks, or even future picks. I would not rule any of those possibilities out with the level of talent that will still be available.

After day two there is still talent to be had at edge. Given the expertise of Mayock, it is very possible that the Raiders find a “diamond in the rough” late. It could be a draft pick, or even an undrafted free agent. That being said, I don’t see the Raiders banking on such a move as more than just camp competition.

And remember, this piece is purely about the edge position. The Raiders are sure to target other positions on all three days of the draft as well.