ALAMEDA — If you’re desperate for a silver lining on the Raiders’ defense, look to the secondary.
The Raiders made a quick strike Monday, reportedly coming to terms with safety LaMarcus Joyner on a four-year, $42 million deal with $16.7 guaranteed that indicates the former Rams franchise player will have a major role in 2019.
After finishing last in the NFL with only five interceptions in 2017, the Raiders finished 14th in the league with 14 picks in 2018. Gareon Conley, the 2017 first-rounder who played only two games his rookie season, tied for the team lead with three interceptions and returned a Baker Mayfield pass 36 yards for a score in Oakland’s Week 4 win against the Browns.
Conley is probably the surest thing going in the Raiders’ secondary right now, though, and like the rest of their defense the unit needs tweaking.
The staff liked how safety Karl Joseph finished 2018, re-establishing himself as the hard-hitting safety Reggie McKenzie used a first-round pick on in 2016. Gruden said at the combine he expects the Raiders to pick up Joseph’s fifth-year option. The Raiders signed safety Erik Harris to a two-year deal last Thursday, and tendered cornerback Daryl Worley. Safeties Reggie Nelson and Marcus Gilchrist are set to be unrestricted free agents on Wednesday.
The Raiders are probably set at outside cornerback since Conley and Worley were their main starters there last season.
Who’s here: Gareon Conley (CB), Nick Nelson (CB), Daryl Worley (CB), Montrel Meander (CB), Erik Harris (S), Karl Joseph (S), Dallin Leavitt (S), LaMarcus Joyner (pending).
The secondary market
For complete Oakland Raiders coverage follow us on Flipboard.
Ronald Darby, Philadelphia: Darby (5-11, 183) has a good skill set but has been available for 17 games with 16 starts over the last two seasons because of a dislocated ankle and a knee injury. That’s in contrast to his first two seasons with the Bills, when he started 29 times. Former sprinter has makeup speed teams love.
Pierre Desir, Indianapolis: Desir (6-1, 198) had a breakout season in 2018 just in time for free agency. Had one interception and eight pass breakups, but is regarded as a good tackler who forced a pair of fumbles and recovered one.
Bryce Callahan, Chicago: Callahan started 10 games for the Bears last season, defending six passes with a pair interceptions. Has a feel for blitzing, as evidenced by two sacks and four in his career. Undersized (5-9, 188) when it comes to bigger receivers but could be slot worthy.
Bashaud Breeland, Green Bay: Got a late start last season after cutting his foot in an off-season accident and played seven games with five starts for the Packers. The injury essentially voided a lucrative deal with Carolina. Breeland (5-11, 195) started 54 games in his first four seasons with Washington.
Steven Nelson, Kansas City: The good news is that Nelson (5-11, 194) was a 16-game starter for the Chiefs last season with four interceptions. The bad news is Kansas City was notoriously leaky in the secondary and susceptible to big plays despite having a solid pass rush.
Others: Jason Verrett (L.A. Chargers), Darqueze Dennard (Cincinnati), Morris Claiborne (N.Y. Jets), Rashaan Melvin (Raiders).
Earl Thomas, Seattle: Pretty much the gold standard as a free safety, Thomas (5-10, 202) is coming off a broken leg last season. His previous three seasons also include a broken tibia and a hamstring pull. A classic center field deep safety when healthy.
HaHa Clinton-Dix, Washington: The former first-round pick looks the part at 6-1, 208 but has yet to reach his full potential in either Green Bay (for five seasons) or in 2018 with Washington. Has played on only 16 of 32 games the last two seasons because of injury.
Can Raiders afford to bring aboard Le’Veon Bell?
Oakland Raiders Coliseum vote set for Friday
Ex-Raiders receiver revives 20-year-old grudge against Jon Gruden
Raiders on the lookout for linebackers, as usual
Report: Raiders signing Lamarcus Joyner, potential starting safety
Jahleel Addai, L.A. Chargers: Six-year veteran started all 32 games for the Chargers the past two seasons but with just one interception and 10 passes defensed. Regarded as a solid tackler in the secondary. Released as free agency approached to free up $5 million in cap space.
Johnathan Cyprien, Tennessee: Has 70 games experience, all as a starter, for Jacksonville and Tennessee from 2013 through 2017. Cyprien (6-1, 211) tore his ACL before last season started and has had plenty of rehab time, but Titans waived him and signed Kenny Vaccaro.
Kurt Coleman, New Orleans: Strong safety played in 16 games with nine starts for the Saints last season. Physical at 5-11, 208 but of his 21 career interceptions, none have come in the last 28 games. Has played with Eagles, Chiefs and Panthers.
Others: Mike Mitchell (Indianapolis), Tre Boston (Arizona), George Iloka (Minnesota), Marcus Gilchrist (Raiders), Glover Quin (Detroit).
Like our Oakland Raiders Facebook page for more Raiders news, commentary and conversation.