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Raiders free agency: Impact defensive tackles

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By: Ray Aspuria

Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, like Kansas City’s Chris Jones, may not reach unrestricted free agency. But if both do, expect teams to shell out the coin to land the services of the two wrecking machine interior linemen. | Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Splurging on an interior linemen may be best play for Las Vegas

The Kansas City Chiefs’ Chris Jones and Baltimore Ravens’ Justin Madubuike represent to the top two impact defensive tackles with expiring contracts. That duo is responsible for a combined 23.5 sacks — Jones with 10.5, Madubuike with 13 — and 25 tackles for loss — 13 and 12, respectively.

The 29-year-old Jones and 26-year-old Madubuike are the type of disruptive interior linemen teams would normally salivate over. But it’s looking highly likely teams will be on the look, but don’t touch regiment when it comes to the pair of defensive tackles.

Kansas City and Jones have mutual interest in relinking with one another — especially after back-to-back Super Bowl wins with a three-peat on the horizon. And Baltimore made it’s intentions on Madubuike well-known on Tuesday:

If either do hit the open market, the Las Vegas Raiders would be wise to make an offer on either Jones or Madubuike. Both are going to be big-ticket signings if they enter free agency, however. Spotrac has a calculated market value of $28.4 million in average annual salary for Jones (a projected three-year, $85.450-plus million deal). The group has a projected value of $20.3 million annually for Madubuike (four years, $81.287-plus million deal).

Yet, with ample cap space, splurging on on interior pass rusher to go along with edge rushers Maxx Crosby, Malcolm Koonce, and Tyree Wilson would be a wise play for the Silver & Black. The team hasn’t showcased a must-account-for defensive tackle in years, only make the Silver & Black defense more imposing by adding another defender who can make life a pain for opposing quarterbacks.

In fact, you have to go all the way back to the 2006 season when Warren Sapp had 10 sacks to find a Raiders defensive tackle put up the sack numbers that either Jones or Madubuike posted in 2023. Before that it was the 2002 season where Rod Coleman posted 11 sacks at defensive tackle and 1998 when Darrell Russell racked up 10 sacks as a rookie. So it’s been a long while since the Silver & Black had that kind of production from an interior pass rusher.

Let’s take a look at the options in free agency, starting with a pair of productive Raiders in 2023 that are slated to hit the market.

In-House Options

John Jenkins: I wrote about why the Raiders should bring back this nose tackle two weeks ago, and my stance on the 34-year-old veteran hasn’t changed. A space-eating big bodied nose tackle that draws multiple blockers and is still an effective run stopper despite being older, Jenkins is a lead-by-example veteran that brings knowledge, experience, and productivity.

Adam Butler: A flier signing by the previous regime, Butler was a harrier as a rotational defensive tackle racking up five sacks along with nine quarterback hits, eight stops for loss and 28 total tackles. Not bad for the 29-year-old tackle that was out of the league for all of 2022. Butler showed a nose for the ball and has good size at 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds.


Christian Wilkins, Miami Dolphins: A stout run defender who excelled as a pass rusher in 2023 with nine sacks and 23 quarterback hits, this 6-foot-4, 310-pound disruptor is likely to be a hot commodity if he hits free agency. Unable to strike a new contract with Miami, Wilkins put on a show this past season with 30 pressures to go along with 65 total tackles and 10 stops for loss. He lived in the backfield and is going to command serious coin with Spotrac’s calculated market value at $20.2 million average annual salary while OverTheCap projects a $14.852 million annual average.

New York Jets v Miami Dolphins
Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images
Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins (94) has always excelled as a run defender. In 2023, he showcased his ability to get after the quarterback with a career-high nine sacks.

Leonard Williams, Seattle Seahawks: Seattle gave up draft picks to snare this 6-foot-5, 300-pound lineman and he did finish 2023 with 5.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits along with 62 total stops. He still generates pressure from the interior with 23 this past season and he commands attention against the run, too. The 29-year-old is going to garner attention on the open market due to experience and production with Spotrac denoting a $16.7 million average annual salary for Williams.

D.J. Reader, Cincinnati Bengals: A prototype nose tackle at 6-foot-3 and 335 pounds, the 29-year-old can’t be blocked one-on-one. The major issue is he did suffer a torn quadriceps in Week 15 and at his age and size, that ailment may take time to heal. But when healthy, he dominates, draws attention, and pushes the pocket to free up other defenders to make plays. But health is key and he holds a valuation of $14.9 million average from Spotrac and $6.878 million from OverTheCap.

Role Players

Denico Autry, Tennessee Titans: He began his career as a Raider in Oakland and since then, this 6-foot-5 and 285-pound interior pass rusher has racked up 48.5 career sacks (to the 10.5 he had in four years in Silver & Black). He is 33, but Autry still can rush the passer from the defensive tackle spot as he had 11.5 sacks in 2023. He had 24 pressures to go along with 17 quarterback hits and 50 total tackles. He may not be a three-down defender anymore, but he can still get after the quarterback.

Tim Settle, Buffalo Bills: Well-built at 6-foot-3 and 313 pounds, the 26-year-old can be plopped in the middle of the defensive line and occupy blocks and push the pocket. His playing time fluctuates as a rotational lineman but Settle can anchor as nose and provide some juice as a rusher. He can play a similar role in Las Vegas and is a younger option than Jenkins. Spotrac calculates Settle’s market value at $3.7 million annual average.

Originally posted on Silver And Black Pride