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It appears the Las Vegas Raiders will be undergoing a sizable overhaul on the defensive line. The team has already traded Yannick Ngakoue, Quinton Jefferson is off to Seattle and they don’t seem to have interest in bringing back Solomon Thomas or Darius Philon. This is likely because new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will be running a 3-4 base defense.
The Raiders have already signed Bilal Nichols and Andrew Billings, who have experience in 3-4. The team will now be adding another defensive tackle who fits the mold. According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, Las Vegas is signing Vernon Butler to a one-year contract.
Butler is a notable name as he was a first-round pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2016. His career has been somewhat derailed by injuries. He’s never played more than 14 games in a season, but he does have upside. In 2019, he notched 6.0 sacks in 14 games, which is solid for a defensive tackle. He then moved on to the Buffalo Bills in 2020 and hasn’t had a sack in two seasons. Outside of the 2019 season, he had 2.0 total sacks combined in the other fives seasons he’s played. The Raiders have to be banking on the idea that there’s some untapped potential with Butler.
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Raiders Sign Kyle Peko
The Raiders didn’t stop with defensive line signings after the Butler deal. The team also announced the signing of Kyle Peko.
Based on the signings the Raiders have made this offseason, it’s clear that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham wants size from his defensive tackles. Butler is 330 pounds while Peko is 305 pounds. That only makes it more likely that the team will be playing out of a 3-4 base defense.
Peko is a veteran player who came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent of the Denver Broncos in 2016. He’s bounced around all over the AFC and was most recently with the Tennessee Titans where he started three games last season. He’s coming off his best season where he had 2.0 sacks and 10 combined tackles. He should provide solid depth to the defensive line.
Can Raiders Defense Keep Pace With the Offense?
The two biggest moves the Raiders have made this offseason were hiring Josh McDaniels as head coach and trading for wide receiver Davante Adams. Both of those moves should significantly help the offense. The Raiders are set to be one of the most lethal offenses in the NFL next season.
However, the defense is still a bit of a mystery. The Raiders landed Graham as defensive coordinator, who is considered one of the better defensive minds in the NFL, but there haven’t been a lot of impact moves on defense outside of signing Chandler Jones. The team could still use another safety and starting-caliber cornerback. Graham does have some good pieces to work with. Jones and Maxx Crosby form one of the NFL’s best pass-rushing duos. The secondary is a bit of a question mark but there are still some good options available to the team.