A breakdown of the Oakland Raiders' 2019 free-agent signings.
Tyrell Williams, receiver
What it means: Derek Carr is a happy man, The Raiders WR Corps got a massive upgrade with the trade acquisition of Antonio Brown and the signing of Williams. It also might allow for veteran Jordy Nelson to move inside to the slot, where he might have lost a step but can still outrun linebackers. Williams is a solid No. 2 receiver who had a career year in 2016, catching 69 passes (on 119 targets) for 1,059 yards and 7 touchdowns, with Keenan Allen out with a torn ACL. It might also make Seth Roberts, who has a cap number of $4.65 million for 2019, a possible cut.
What’s the risk: Williams’ production has gone down since his massive 2016 season, from 69 catches 1,059 yards, 7 TD to 43-728-4 to 41-653-5. But that is to be expected from a No. 2 receiver, no? The undrafted rookie from Division II Western Oregon has exceeded expectations, so the Raiders hope a regression, as well as a return bout with the dropsies, does not come calling.
Trent Brown, offensive tackle
What it means: In giving Brown the richest contract for an offensive lineman in NFL history, the Raiders are not sold on third-round draft pick Brandon Parker, who started 12 games at right tackle and had uneven results, and are likely moving on from veteran tackle Donald Penn, who suffered a season-ending groin injury in Week 4 after moving to right tackle following the first-round selection of left tackle Kolton Miller. Penn also has a salary cap number of $7.225 million for 2019. Brown is getting left tackle money, though, so you have to wonder if Miller is the one moving to the right side after a season of fits, starts and injuries.
What’s the risk: What if Brown, the largest man in the NFL at 6-foot-8, 380 pounds, was simply a byproduct of being in a strong system in New England and does not jibe with Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable’s scheme? That’s a lot of money to give to a guy who, until last year, was a right tackle for the 49ers, who drafted him in the seventh round, in his first three seasons.
Lamarcus Joyner, free safety
The Raiders signed Lamarcus Joyner to a four-year deal worth about $42 million. Here's a closer look at the free safety who spent the past five seasons with the Rams:
What it means: The rebuilding Raiders have their starting safeties, with Joyner at free safety and Karl Joseph, who improved down the stretch in defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's scheme last season, on the strong side. The Raiders had a major need at the back end of the defense and Joyner, who played last season on the Rams' franchise tag at $11.28 million, had one interception and ranked third on the team with 78 tackles.
What's the risk: Joyner is just 5-foot-8, 191 pounds, and Joseph is 5-10, 205 pounds. Not the largest of safety duos. And the Raiders have some pretty big and athletic tight ends to contend with in the AFC West. Still, Joyner, who has four career interceptions with a pick-six, 25 pass deflections and five sacks, is a good cover man as he began his career as a nickel cornerback.
Jordan Devey, offensive line
The Raiders signed Devey to a reported one-year deal on Thursday. Here’s a closer look at the interior offensive lineman who spent the previous three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs:
What it means: The Raiders might have found a replacement for the versatile Jon Feliciano, who departed for the Bills in free agency. Like Feliciano, Devey is a backup center who can play both guard spots. In fact, Devey started two games at center for the Chiefs’ high-powered offense last season before he went down with a torn pectoral muscle. And the Raiders, depending upon any shuffling they do -- move Gabe Jackson back to left guard from right guard? -- have an opening at left guard with the trade of Kelechi Osemele. Pro Football Focus gave Devey career-high grades overall (57.7) and in pass-blocking (78.4) as he gave up only one total pressure and no sacks combined in his starts, against the Patriots and Bengals.
What’s the risk: Is he fully recovered from his injury? Devey is a massive man at 6-foot-6, 320 pounds and Devey has started 17 of his 39 career games in spending time with the Patriots (2013-14), 49ers (2015) and Chiefs (2016-18). The closest he ever came to being a full-time starter was with the Niners, with nine starts at right guard in 15 games, and last year.
Johnathan Hankins, defensive tackle
Hankins re-signed to a two-year deal on Sunday.
What it means: The Raiders like how active the 2013 second-round pick was after joining the team prior to Week 2, following a foot injury suffered by defensive tackle Justin Ellis. Hankins was also a calming influence on rookies Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall, even if he was not much of a pass-rush threat. Still, Hankins, who started 14 of the 15 games in which he played last season, led Oakland’s defensive tackles with 36 tackles, 21 solo, and recovered two fumbles against Cleveland in the Raiders’ unlikely 45-42 overtime win in Week 4.
What’s the risk: Oakland being content with Hankins, who is just 27, and not further addressing the interior of the defensive line. Because, as Jon Gruden said at the combine, “We drafted two young pass rushers inside last year and we might be in the market for another one.” Hankins is solid if unspectacular as his 66.5 overall PFF grade was fourth among Raiders defensive players with at least 250 snaps.
Vontaze Burfict, linebacker
The Raiders signed Vontaze Burfict to a reported one-year deal worth up to $5 million on Tuesday. Here's a closer look at the linebacker who spent the previous seven seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals:
What it means: The Raiders got a little nastier on defense, and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, who had him in Cincinnati, believes he can reign=in the volatile Burfict. And so long as he is focused and rejuvenated, Burfict figures to slide in at middle linebacker and provide the thump that Oakland has been missing for many years. “I'm not a dirty player,” Burfict said in a conference call. “I play a physical position, which is middle linebacker, outside linebacker. That's physical. I can't go in there playing patty-cake. If I go out there playing patty-cake, then I'm going to be getting run over.”
What's the risk: Can the Raiders truly depend on him? Burfict had had 11 different fines or suspensions in his seven-year NFL career and has missed games in three straight seasons due to suspensions, including a four-gamer last season for PEDs. He has missed at least a game in three straight seasons due to concussions. He has only played all 16 games once, in 2013, and went to the Pro Bowl that year. Since then he has missed 37 of 80 possible regular-season games. Then there is his history with new Raiders receiver Antonio Brown. “There's nothing negative over here,” Burfict insisted. “We're all on the same team. We're trying to win a championship over here ... honestly, we might be the closest friends on the team, you know what I mean? So, just got to go along with it and I can't wait to meet him.”
Nevin Lawson, cornerback
The Raiders signed Nevin Lawson to a one-year deal worth up to $3.05 million, per NFL Network, on Wednesday. Here's a closer look at the cornerback who spent the previous five seasons with the Detroit Lions:
What it means: The Raiders continue to address specific needs in the secondary with a solid, if unspectacular, signing. Lawson, who has been a full-time starter the past three seasons, should compete with Daryl Worley and Gareon Conley. Lawson, who has started 54 of his career 62 games, might also compete with newly-signed Lamarcus Joyner at nickel cornerback. The Raiders also used a fourth-round draft pick on Nick Nelson last season.
What's the risk: The Raiders are high on both Conley and Worley, so if Lawson beats either of them out, something went wrong in their respective developments. Especially since Lawson, a small corner at 5-foot-9, 192 pounds, has yet to intercept a pass in 62 career games. His lone career turnover was a forced fumble/fumble recovery that he scooped up after hitting Browns tight end Seth Devalve and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown in 2017. He is scrappy, though, with 25 career passes defensed.
Dwayne Harris, return specialist/receiver
The Raiders re-signed Dwayne Harris on Monday. Here's a closer look at the return specialist/receiver who spent the 2018 season with the Raiders after playing the previous three seasons with the Giants:
What it means: The Raiders, under special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, truly put a premium on special teams. Harris is one of the most electric return men in the NFL, or did you miss his Christmas Eve Miracle 99-yard punt return for a touchdown, when two Broncos tried to down the ball inside the 1-yard line? A quick-thinking Harris picked up the ball and was off, down the right sideline. It was the play of the year for a 4-12 team that won that night, 27-14.
What's the risk: Sure, Harris tied for the league lead with a 14.1 yards per punt return average, the second-best such mark in franchise history. And he did win a pair of AFC special teams player of the week awards while also averaging 22.9 yards per kickoff return. He also pitched in on offense, catching six passes for 40 yards. But Harris turns 32 in mid-September.
Erik Harris, safety
The Raiders re-signed Erik Harris to a two-year deal worth up to $6.5 million, with $2.5 million guaranteed.
What it means: Jon Gruden loves Harris -- absolutely loves him -- and his lunchbox mentality. Harris is not a starter. Oakland needs a ballhawk-type free safety to pair with strong safety Karl Joseph, but he brings a certain mentality to the roster and position that Gruden needs in this rebuild. Harris played admirably in appearing in all 16 games last season, starting four, as he is more of a glue guy than every down defensive back, even with his two interceptions and seven passes defensed.
What’s the risk: Harris’ relatively strong play -- his PFF overall grade of 73.5 ranked 31st out of 95 safeties -- being more of a mirage than reality and Oakland believing enough in him that the Raiders do not adequately address the position in the draft. He is a nice player, a “young” 29-year-old once the season starts, and one that would seemingly blossom in the right role, not rushed into a role he is not ready for … yet.
Denzelle Good, offensive lineman
The Raiders signed Denzelle Good to a one-year contract extension. Here's a closer look at the guard who joined the Raiders off waivers from the Colts prior to Week 14 last season:
What it means: Initially, Good being retained before hitting unrestricted free agency looked like a move for depth. But after left guard Kelechi Osemele was slated to be traded to the New York Jets on Monday, Good may be primed to compete for a starting job at right tackle. That is, if Gabe Jackson is moved back to left tackle, where he played his first two seasons with the Raiders. Good started the final three games of the year at right guard for an injured Jackson.
What's the risk: Good is massive for a guard at 6-foot-5, 345 pounds but has played only 12 games total over the past two seasons, starting nine, so if he is indeed in line to become a starter, that would be a huge leap for him. And Oakland is already going to be breaking in another new starter on the offensive line in tackle Trent Brown, though it is not clear yet whether Brown will be on the left or right, in relation to last year's first-round pick Kolton Miller.
Josh Mauro, defensive end
The Raiders signed Josh Mauro to a free-agent deal on Friday. Here's a closer look at the defensive end who spent the previous season with the New York Giants:
What it means: The Raiders now have two defensive ends under contract, and Arden Key, a third-round draft pick last season, and Mauro have a combined four career sacks, with Mauro racking up three in five seasons. Not exactly a fearsome pass rush from the edge now, right? No doubt Jon Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will address this in the draft, after the Raiders had a league-low 13 sacks last season, or, .5 of one sack more than Khalil Mack had with the Bears. Then again, Ezekiel Ansah and Justin Houston are still out there in free agency, for what it's worth.
What's the risk: Mauro is a physical specimen at 6-foot-6, 282 pounds and has been described as a tough, good rotation player who plays with power. But his relatively paltry three sacks in 59 career games, 30 starts, do not necessarily warm the cockles of Raider Nation's Silver and Black heart. Also, Mauro served a four-game suspension for PEDs last season. He did play for new Raiders defensive line coach Brentson Buckner in Arizona so there is familiarity. How much of a factor will Mauro, a native of Saint Albans, England, be for Oakland when the Raiders play Mack and the Bears in London?