Free agency spree sets stage for Raiders draft

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.

    Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this April 29, 2017, file photo, Oakland Raiders fans attend an NFL football draft event in Las Vegas. Tourism officials in Las Vegas are allocating $2.4 million to host the NFL draft in a little more than 10 weeks. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, approved a budget for promotions, police, "marquee event elements," and $500,000 for contracts to be signed by the authority chief executive.

    FILE - In this April 29, 2017, file photo, Oakland Raiders fans attend an NFL football draft event in Las Vegas. Tourism officials in Las Vegas are allocating $2.4 million to host the NFL draft in a little more than 10 weeks. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, approved a budget for promotions, police, "marquee event elements," and $500,000 for contracts to be signed by the authority chief executive. Associated Press

  • Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis, center, speaks during a news conference, officially renaming the Oakland Raiders to the Las Vegas Raiders, in front of Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. Raiders president Marc Badain listens at right. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

    Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis, center, speaks during a news conference, officially renaming the Oakland Raiders to the Las Vegas Raiders, in front of Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. Raiders president Marc Badain listens at right. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP) Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2019, file photo, Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Tahir Whitehead (59) reacts after tackling Detroit Lions running back Ty Johnson during the second half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif. A person familiar with the situation says the Panthers have agreed to terms on contracts with former XFL quarterback P.J. Walker of the Houston Roughnecks and former Raiders linebacker Tahir Whitehead. The person spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday, March 23, 2020, because the moves have not been announced by the team since the players have yet to pass physicals.

    FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2019, file photo, Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Tahir Whitehead (59) reacts after tackling Detroit Lions running back Ty Johnson during the second half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif. A person familiar with the situation says the Panthers have agreed to terms on contracts with former XFL quarterback P.J. Walker of the Houston Roughnecks and former Raiders linebacker Tahir Whitehead. The person spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday, March 23, 2020, because the moves have not been announced by the team since the players have yet to pass physicals. Associated Press

  • Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.

    Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. Associated Press

  • This Dec. 18, 2019 photo shows an aerial view of Allegiant Stadium ,the new NFL football stadium under construction in Las Vegas. A person familiar with the team's plans says the Oakland Raiders have declined an option to remain in Oakland for 2020 and are on target to move into the new stadium this summer. Construction on the stadium has been deemed an essential project and is going on without interruption despite most business being shut down in Nevada because of the new coronavirus. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

    This Dec. 18, 2019 photo shows an aerial view of Allegiant Stadium ,the new NFL football stadium under construction in Las Vegas. A person familiar with the team's plans says the Oakland Raiders have declined an option to remain in Oakland for 2020 and are on target to move into the new stadium this summer. Construction on the stadium has been deemed an essential project and is going on without interruption despite most business being shut down in Nevada because of the new coronavirus. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP) Associated Press

 
 
Updated 4/14/2020 9:19 PM

The Las Vegas Raiders spent most of the free agency period bolstering one of the NFL's worst defenses, with one glaring exception.

While the Raiders added a pair of starting linebackers in Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski, a new free safety in Damarious Randall and rotational players on the defensive line in Carl Nassib and Maliek Collins, they were unable to add much of anything at cornerback.

 

The team made a run at free agents like Byron Jones and Chris Harris Jr., who ended up signing elsewhere, and had a deal with Eli Apple fall through over a failed physical.

So now heading into the draft, general manager Mike Mayock has few proven options on his roster at a crucial position. But that doesn't mean he's ready to take a cornerback with one of his two first-round picks at No. 12 and No. 19 overall.

'I think the biggest mistake that people make is trying to reach for needs,' Mayock said Tuesday. 'The board will fall whatever way it falls. If we're fortunate enough to get a corner, that would be great.'

There are plenty of promising cornerback prospects who should be available in the first round if Mayock decides to go in that direction.

Players like Florida's C.J. Henderson, Clemson's A.J. Terrell, LSU's Kristian Fulton, Alabama's Trevon Diggs, Utah's Jaylon Johnson and TCU's Jeff Gladney all could be options in that area of the draft.

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The Raiders currently have eight cornerbacks on their roster, but only Nevin Lawson and Ken Crawley have started more than 10 games in the NFL and neither are proven options.

The Raiders are high on second-year player Trayvon Mullen, who showed some flashes in starting the final 10 games last season after being drafted in the second round. Isaiah Johnson and Keisean Nixon played only sparingly as rookies but also could contribute this year.

'We feel like we have a bunch of talented young kids that we don't know enough about yet,' Mayock said. 'We have four or five young corners that we're kind of intrigued by. Do we think we need to get better there? Yeah.'

The Raiders also made some key additions on offense in free agency, signing backup quarterback Marcus Mariota, receiver Nelson Agholor and veteran tight end Jason Witten.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Tight end didn't appear to be a position of need, with breakout star Darren Waller set at starter and Foster Moreau expected to be fully recovered from a knee injury that cut short a promising rookie year. The Raiders also have versatile Derek Carrier but still signed Witten, who turns 38 next month.

Witten has 1,215 catches for 12,977 yards in his career with Dallas.

'If there's a Mount Rushmore of NFL tight ends, he's on it,' Mayock said. 'I know he's 37 years old and I know we have a pretty good tight end room, but when you talk about bringing in a guy like him, not only can he still play ... but on top of that, he brings this wealth of knowledge about how to be a professional.'

Mariota also gives the Raiders a proven backup at quarterback behind starter Derek Carr. The No. 2 overall pick by Tennessee in 2015, Mariota lost his starting job last season with the Titans

Mariota dealt with a revolving door of play-callers and receivers during his time in Tennessee. He made 61 career starts and played 63 games in five seasons, with his best performance coming during his second year in 2016 when he threw 26 touchdown passes and had a 95.6 passer rating.

Both Mayock and coach Jon Gruden were high on Mariota going into the draft and still believe he has talent.

'He has to get healthy,' Mayock said. 'We're going to rebuild him a little bit and get his confidence back and build him up from the ground up. It's going to take a little while to get him healthy and where he wants to be. We're excited about the quarterback room.'

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