With free agency starting up, the Las Vegas Raiders have many holes to fill on the roster. Among the biggest needs are in the defensive backfield, especially at safety. Duron Harmon is a free agent and may not be retained. Luckily, the team was quick to find a younger safety.
According to a Monday, March 13 report from NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the Raiders have signed former Philadelphia Eagles safety Marcus Epps to a two-year, $12 million contract. $8 million of that will be guaranteed.
Epps is coming off of a Super Bowl run with the Eagles where he was a key piece for the second-best defense in the NFL. He started every game, including the Super Bowl. The former sixth-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings landed with the Eagles as a rookie and spent the last four years with the team. He didn’t become a full-time starter until this season. His emergence in 2022 led to a solid payday for the veteran strong safety. Epps had 94 combined tackles last season with six passes defended. He’ll likely take over the starting strong safety spot opposite Tre’von Moehrig.
Epps is better as a run defender than pass defender. Pro Football Focus gave him an 84.4 run defense grade but only a 44.7 coverage grade. The Raiders still need to sure up their coverage on the back end but Epps certainly helps in the run game.
Raiders Need More Secondary Help
Epps the first step in rebuilding the Raiders’ secondary but much more help is needed. Run defense was the one thing the defense did well last season but the team had the fourth-worst pass defense. Epps is a good player but he’s not helping much in the passing game. The Raiders need more cornerbacks and a linebacker or two who can cover.
If they don’t address those needs, it’s hard to see the defense being much better in 2023. There’s still plenty of time for the Raiders to make additions in free agency and the draft but general manager Dave Ziegler is definitely taking a more methodical approach. Former general manager Mike Mayock made some big splashes in free agency and that didn’t lead to much winning. Perhaps a more subtle approach is what the Raiders need. Chandler Jones was the one big free agent signing the team made last year and that was one of their worst moves.
Raiders Need Tre’von Moehrig to Return to Rookie Form
One of the most disappointing players for the Raiders last season was former second-round pick Tre’von Moehrig. The safety out of TCU put together a strong rookie campaign and looked like a building block for the secondary. His play declined drastically in 2022 as he was Pro Football Focus‘ 79th-ranked safety.
He was clearly a better fit in Gus Bradley’s defense but that’s no reason to play so poorly. Moehrig had seven interceptions in three at TCU but he only has one in two years with the Raiders. He was supposed to be a ballhawk but he hasn’t shown that to the team yet. He’s entering a pivotal year. If he plays poorly again next season, there’s a strong chance the Raiders look to move on.