The Las Vegas Raiders should look to make a huge splash in free agency by signing stud defensive linemen Chris Jones away from their division rivals.
As the Las Vegas Raiders‘ franchise prepares for life in a new city, Jon Gruden and company are making preparations to build a legitimate contender in 2020.
The Raiders’ defensive unit performed at a below-average level in 2019. In fact, the team ranked a lowly 24th in points allowed per game and 19th in total yards surrendered.
This performance fits in a recent trend in inept results on that side of the ball. In fact, the franchise finished last in the league in 2018, 20th in 2017, and 20th in 2016 (in points per game allowed).
Luckily, the Raiders happen to have a collection of valuable draft picks and over $50 million in cap space to improve their team. This places the franchise on the small list of teams that could be serious suitors for the services of All-Pro defensive lineman Chris Jones.
Jones represents a rare commodity in the NFL — a productive pass rusher who is available on the open market. The 2019 Pro Bowl selection is just 25 years old. He is also coming off of two extremely productive seasons.
The star had a breakout campaign in 2018 when he recorded a career-high 15.5 sacks and 29 QB hits. He followed up with an impressive nine sacks and 20 QB hits in 2019. He, alongside Frank Clark, helped propel the team to a Super Bowl title last season.
On the downside, the pass rusher is expected to command at least $19 million in annual salary during his stint as a free agent. There is also a legitimate chance that Jones elects to return to Kansas City to pursuit back-to-back titles.
However, the Raiders have the financial flexibility to make an enticing offer. They have also been speculated as a potential landing spot.
If Gruden and Mike Mayock were able to acquire Jones, it would completely revamp the defensive unit. The former Mississippi State Bulldog has shown excellent positional flexibility over the past two seasons.
After playing the first three seasons on his career as an edge rusher, Jones was able to find great success after a move to the interior of the line in 2019. He, in tandem with Crosby and Ferrell, would give Las Vegas a dangerous trio for years to come.
The 2019 San Francisco 49ers proved that is it possible to ride a dominant pass rush to postseason success. A union with Chris Jones would allow the Raiders to build a roster around a similar model.
This move would also help improve the pass defense. The Raiders finished a pedestrian 24th in passing defense last season. However, if the team were to sign Jones, the pressure generated from the defensive line could allow Vegas to see drastic improvements in their overall pass and run defense.
Signing Jones would give the Raiders something they lacked during most of their stint in Oakland — a clear identity. While they may not be able to land an elite quarterback and build a historic offense, they do have an opportunity to establish themselves as a pass-rushing nightmare.
Las Vegas also faces the unenviable challenge of contending with former NFL MVP Patrick Maholmes for the AFC West crown. A revamped defensive line could help even the playing field.
Plus there’s the added perk of strengthening the Raiders’ roster at the expense of their rivals.
After seeing the Niners limit Patrick Mahomes’ ability in Super Bowl 54, building a defense-first roster may give Gruden his best chance at a winning football club.
They should go all-in on Chris Jones this offseason.