Raiders’ free-agent fits: Focus shifts to defense, O-line after adding Jimmy Garoppolo

The Raiders started free agency by finding a quarterback solution. They agreed to terms with Jimmy Garoppolo on a three-year, $72.5 million deal Monday, multiple team sources with direct knowledge of the situation told The Athletic. That looks like a lot of money but, as usual, the real number to focus on is the guaranteed money.

Garoppolo received $33.75 million guaranteed at signing, which includes his 2023 pay and his 2024 roster bonus. Essentially, he’s only locked into being on the Raiders’ roster for two seasons. And while his average annual salary is $22.5 million, his cap hit in 2023 is just $16.3 million, multiple league sources with direct knowledge of the situation told The Athletic. His cap hit is set to increase to $28 million in 2024, and it’ll be at the same number in 2025 if he’s still on the team by then. Garoppolo will assuredly be the Raiders’ starter this season, but it’s worth noting that acquiring him won’t rule them out from drafting a quarterback at some point next month.

Jimmy Garoppolo contract breakdown

Year Salary Cap hit Dead money if cut













In a smaller but still significant move, the Raiders also agreed to terms with safety Marcus Epps on a two-year, $12 million contract with $8 million guaranteed Monday. Epps earned a full-time starting role with the Eagles in 2022 and took advantage of the opportunity. He played all 17 games and posted a strong stat line of 94 tackles, four tackles for loss and six pass deflections. He’s just OK in pass coverage and has average size at 6-foot, 198 pounds, but he’s a stout run defender, plays with notable physicality and tends to be in the right position. He’s only 27 and will give the Raiders a young starting safety duo that has long-term upside playing next to Tre’von Moehrig, who’ll be 24 this season. Moehrig had a rough season last year, but the front office still believes in him.

“He’s a pleasure to work with,” coach Josh McDaniels said earlier this month. “I think he learned a lot last year being in his second year. His first year, you’re playing out there and I’m not sure any rookie really totally knows everything that’s going on out there. You’re just trying to do your job right. I think it slowed down for him a little bit last year. We had him in some different roles. I think Duron Harmon really had a big impact on Tre’ in terms of how to do your job every day and go about your process. You’d love for Tre’ to take another step forward. We’re going to use him in a lot of different roles again here. He’s a really good football player. I’d like to see him take a leadership role in the secondary.”

The Raiders also agreed to undisclosed terms with cornerback Brandon Facyson. He made nine starts with the Raiders in 2021 before leaving with former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to join the Colts last season. He made four starts in 16 appearances and played 43 percent of their defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Reference. Ideally, he’ll fall into a similar rotational role for the Raiders rather than be depended on as a starter.

The Raiders had just over $27.3 million in cap space remaining according to Over the Cap after the Garoppolo signing, so they likely still have at least $20 million in space after adding Epps and Facyson. That room will come in handy considering general manager Dave Ziegler still wants to explore bringing back some of their in-house free agents, improve the offensive line and add some help on the defensive side of the ball.

Here’s a list of the best free agents who fill the Raiders’ needs, fit their scheme on either side of the ball and could be had for a realistic salary. Of course, this list is subject to change and will be updated as players are signed across the league.

Best remaining available: The Athletic’s top 150 free agents
Live updates: News, predictions, analysis and updates
Free agency grades: The Athletic’s Mike Jones grades all the signings
Does free agency work?: Evaluating value from 2020-2022

The Raiders have a young secondary and need an older, steadying presence that can still play at a high level. Bradberry was a first-team All-Pro last season and has familiarity with defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s system from his time with the Giants from 2020 to 2021. This feels like a natural match.

McGary was lackluster through his first three seasons, but he was stellar last season. He’s less proven than Jawaan Taylor and is three years older, but he’s a cheaper option if the Raiders don’t want to invest too heavily in a right tackle.

Bobby Wagner, LB, Rams

Wagner was released because the Rams are a mess, not because of his play. He posted a monster stat line of 140 tackles, 10 TFLs and six sacks on his way to a second-team All-Pro nod. He’ll be 33 years old next season, but he’s another age-defying veteran worth giving a short-term contract.

Bobby Wagner has enough left in the tank to be worth a short-term deal. (Kirby Lee / USA Today)

Just like Tremaine Edmunds, David does everything well. The only difference is he’s older at 33, which should also mean he’ll take less of a financial commitment to acquire. He’d be an excellent alternative.

The Eagles had the best offensive line in football last season and Seumalo was a big reason why. He can play either guard spot at a high level and would provide a much-needed veteran presence to the overall unit.

Robinson is a 6-4, 330-pound nose tackle who’s all about filling space, taking on double-teams and putting blockers in the dirt. He’s coming off a knee injury but should be healthy for the start of the season.

Ya-Sin missed six games due to injury last season, but he was easily the Raiders’ best corner when healthy. On top of that, he’ll only be 27 years old this season. The only thing holding him back is durability.

Peters, 30, had a challenging year last season after coming off another significant knee injury in 2021. Given his apparent decline, his lengthy injury history and his bombastic personality, he’s a risk. For the Raiders, though, that may be one worth taking on the Oakland native.

Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Cowboys

Vander Esch falls in the bucket of over-drafted-but-still-quality players. He’ll never be spectacular, but he’s solid and would check off a substantial need for the Raiders.

Risner is a capable left guard who hardly misses games. He’d be the best guard on the roster.

Murphy is a good corner, but he’s coming off of a back injury. That’ll undoubtedly hurt his market.

Oliver has only been a full-time starter for one season, so his game takes some projection, but he’s shown he can be an effective player at corner, nickelback and safety. It’s easy to convince yourself he’s ready for a bigger role.

When Pipkins was healthy this past season, he was solid, but he played through a nagging knee injury for most of the season. He’ll be another player where medicals could be the deciding factor.

Trey Pipkins III was solid, when healthy, for the Chargers last season. (Kirby Lee / USA Today)

Rankins is a sensational run defender. He brings a little juice as a pass rusher — he has 23 1/2 sacks across seven seasons — but shutting down opposing teams’ ground game remains his specialty.

Ogunjobi had a weird free agency last year where he signed a big deal only to fail a physical, but he put concerns about his health to the side by starting 16 games in 2022. He only had 1 1/2 sacks, but that may just be an aberration as he has 23 1/2 career sacks across six seasons. He’s also an excellent run defender, so he’d give the Raiders a lift in all facets on the interior D-line.

Who doesn’t love reunions? As a rotational pass rusher, Key has compiled 11 sacks across the last two seasons. He can’t be written off as a fluke any longer. The former Raiders draft bust would now legitimately help them.

Ebukam has posted at least 4 1/2 sacks every season since 2019 and displayed the ability to be a full-time starter last season. He’s probably best as a rotational pass rusher, but that’s all the Raiders would need him to be.

In Tranquill’s first season as a full-time starter, he posted 146 tackles, 10 TFLs and five sacks and he can cover, too. Not bad. With the Chargers agreeing to terms with Eric Kendricks, he should be available.

Cox is past his prime, but he’s still a damn good player. He had 43 tackles, seven TFL and seven sacks last season and has plenty left in the tank. He’d be a great value addition for the Raiders.

Hernandez is nothing more than a solid starter, but that’s still useful. And while he plays on the opposite side of the ball, Graham knows him from his time coaching with the Giants from 2020 to 2021.

Gaines has more pass-rush juice than you would expect. He registered 8 1/2 sacks across the last two seasons and is a strong run defender. The 6-1, 312-pounder would be a useful addition.

The former Raider didn’t live up to his contract last year with the Seahawks, but he’s still a good player. He had 44 tackles, five TFL and two sacks last season and has only missed three games the last two years. He’ll be 32 years old this season and has enough left to be a useful member of any D-line rotation.

Hollins had a career year with the Raiders, established himself as a legit No. 3 receiver, contributed on special teams and became a favorite of both the coaching staff and locker room. The Raiders want him back, but there’s a gap when it comes to what a new deal would look like. The Raiders offered Hollins a similar deal to the one-year, $2 million contract he signed last offseason before free agency began, but he declined it according to a league source with direct knowledge of the situation. Hollins is seeking a multiyear contract with an average salary in the ballpark of $5-7 million. He could realistically attain that given this isn’t a strong receiver market, but it’s unclear if the Raiders are willing to go that high.

There’s mutual interest in Mack Hollins returning to the Raiders, but a gap remains in the salary desired. (Kirby Lee / USA Today)

Campbell will be 37 in September, but he’s still got it. He had 36 tackles, four TFL and 5 1/2 sacks last season and missed just three games due to injury. He’s worth a one-year deal.

Eluemunor started all 17 games last season and made huge strides once he settled in at right tackle, but he’s still an OK starter at best. The Raiders should explore an upgrade and only bring back Eluemunor at the right price.

Perryman took a step back last season after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2021 and suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in December, but he’s still a solid linebacker who has a strong reputation at team headquarters. They’d have him back if he’s willing to take another bargain contract.

Ford is strangely built at 5-11, 310 pounds, but he’s been an effective player. He had 35 tackles, six TFL and three sacks last season and hasn’t missed a game since 2019. The Raiders have expressed interest in recent weeks, according to a league source with direct knowledge of the situation.

Moreau could land a starting job elsewhere, so it’s easy to see him pricing himself out of the Raiders’ range. There’s also a world, however, where the Raiders are able to bring him back to play behind Darren Waller on a cheaper deal than what he’s looking for.

Harmon is getting up there at 32 and was just OK last season, but his value as a veteran presence both on and off the field can’t be disregarded. He could be back in a reduced role behind Epps and Moehrig.

(Top photo of James Bradberry: Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images)

2023-03-14 03:48:39