After a two-day wait filled with anticipation, the Las Vegas Raiders have started to make their first moves of free agency and the 2022 league year. On Wednesday, head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler made a few big splash decisions and added depth to the roster.
Three Players Released
McDaniels and Ziegler cleared up some cap space this week by releasing three defensive players. LB Cory Littleton, LB Nick Kwiatkoski, and DE Carl Nassib have been released by Las Vegas and are now set to continue their NFL careers elsewhere.
All three players came to the Raiders in the offseason of 2020 to help propel a struggling defense. Since then, the defense has improved, and the scheme has changed drastically. New defensive coordinator Patrick Graham no longer saw a fit for any of these players and released them to increase cap space.
As of now, these are the only three players to be released from Las Vegas. Notably on Thursday morning, former Raiders CB Casey Hayward Jr. signed a two-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons.
McDaniels and Ziegler knew all eyes were on them on Wednesday morning, and it paid off. They pulled off the surprise of the week so far as they signed Pro-Bowl edge rusher Chandler Jones.
Jones was one of the hottest names on the market this year after a massive 10-sack season with six forced fumbles. It’s a three-year, $51 million contract that ties Jones to Las Vegas through the 2024 season.
The new Raiders regime also reunited with former New England Patriots including RB Brandon Bolden and FB Jakob Johnson, who will take over in place of former Raiders FB Alec Ingold. Offensively, they have also signed former Miami Dolphins WR Mack Hollins. Hollins led the Dolphins in yards per catch last year. It is realistic to think Hollins will also be a major part of the Raiders special teams, as he led the Dolphins in special teams tackles in 2021.
Defensively, the Silver and Black have added CB Darius Phillips and DT Bilal Nichols. Phillips is known for being an impressive special teams player, while Nichols brings size and force to the Raiders defensive line.
An AFC Trade
With the signing of Chandler Jones came the departure of DE Yannick Ngakoue. Ngakoue was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for CB Rock Ya-Sin. There were no picks involved in this trade.
Ngakoue was incredibly productive in his only season with the Raiders, but the AFC West has improved tremendously this offseason, and Las Vegas had to adjust. The Silver and Black secondary needed an upgrade, and that’s where Ya-Sin came in.
Ya-Sin had a breakout year in 2021. He earned a 72.4 coverage grade per PFF, with an 81.4 grade in man coverage, the fifth-highest amongst all cornerbacks. He had one forced fumble and one fumble recovery last season.
It’s expected his talent will continue developing in Las Vegas. In a young cornerback room, he has the space and the tools to be a game-changer for the Raiders.
Over the course of the next few days, look for McDaniels and Ziegler to potentially address the Raiders’ needs at safety, wide receiver, and offensive line in free agency.
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