Second year Cornerback D.J. Hayden is out of action for at least up to 4 weeks. His time frame was 4-8 weeks from surgery he underwent a month ago to repair a stress fracture in his foot. His early camp injuries in his first two seasons has set him way back in terms of his development. This has also left a big question mark for the Raiders secondary.
There is Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers on the roster, so the Raiders have some veterans, but do they need to add another one? Hayden’s injury cuts into the already limited depth at this position. Here is a list of the cornerbacks, besides Hayden currently on the Raiders Roster:
The experts think that they do need to find a free agent veteran and sign him. Let’s look at both sides of the issue.
Why the Raiders SHOULD sign a veteran free agent CB:
There are three rookies on the roster. Not all of them are likely to make the team. The ones who will are very raw and susceptible to being beaten by more experienced receivers. If they are forced to grow up early and become starters, it is not a very sturdy rack to hang your coat on, so to speak.
Besides Rogers and Brown, Jones and Chekwa have the most experience, but neither has shown that they are close to being elite. Jones is a standout on special teams, so he should make the roster based on that, but he was recently converted back to CB and has not played the position a lot since college. Chekwa has been impressive in training camp, but he has not exactly excelled at CB thus far in his short career.
Chance Casey is pretty much in the same boat as Chekwa. He spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad and only appeared in 2 games. He has yet to record any game stats. In his second year, he still has a lot to learn and unless he makes the team and breaks out in his second season, not much can be expected from him.
Neiko Thorpe is a reserve/future contract signing. He has extremely limited stats (5 solo tackles in 9 games with Kansas City), so not much is known about his ability in coverage. Based on what we know (or don’t know) about the CBs we have on the roster, signing a veteran free agent seems like the best thing to do but…
Why the Raiders SHOULD NOT sign a veteran free agent CB:
Who is available right now? According to walterfootball.com Here are the top veteran free agents available right now:
There is a common theme among these players. Most are either approaching the age of 30 or are on the wrong side of it. This is the knock against Brown and Rogers as well.
Samuel is coming off of a thigh injury that plagued him in 2013. Greer is coming off of an ACL tear in November. He has missed 23 games since 2008. Terrell Thomas has missed the last 2 seasons because of knee injuries and he was reported to have signed with the Seattle Seahawks as of the date this article was written. Florence is an option, but he is known for his extreme highs and lows. Houston was released by the Lions because of injury concerns. Jammer had an excellent career, but at age 35, he is not really a viable option at this point.
There is a common theme among the currently available free agents besides age and that is injury concerns. Aren’t injuries the reason the Raiders are in a position of need at the CB position in the first place? Signing a veteran with those same concerns is not an option. Raider fans have not yet forgotten the likes of Ron Bartell and Pat Lee. None of the current free agents are a better option than what the Raiders currently have on their roster.
The Raiders could sign free agents who are cut from other teams, but this is not a very good option either for a couple of reasons. First of all, anyone worth signing will be cut late in the preseason. These players will have missed all of the Raiders OTAs and training camp. They will have to learn the Raiders system and would be way behind the power curve.
Secondly, they will have been cut for a reason. For the most part, they were not good enough to make the team they were with for whatever reason, so it makes sense that they won’t do much to help their new team either. There are always exceptions, but they are few and far in-between. The Raiders need starters. This is not the optimal way to find them and make your team competitive. This is a lesson that the Raiders learned over the past 2 seasons when they were forced to acquire players on the cheap in this manner.
The best option the Raiders have is to work with the CBs they have. They will likely keep 5 or maybe 6 on the active roster. Even with D.J. Hayden missing a lot of camp and the rookies being forced into a starter’s role, this is more optimal than pushing the panic button and bringing in a veteran who would have to learn the Raiders system from scratch. Even the most seasoned veteran players need a complete OTA and camp with their new teams to be immediately effective as a starter.
Until Hayden’s status for the season is known or he winds up missing substantial time in the regular season, the Raiders do not need to sign a veteran at this juncture. It would not hurt them to keep the phone lines open as this situation continues to play out either.