Las Vegas Raiders sign Super Bowl Champion Chandler Jones to keep up in AFC West

Former Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones signs with the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency
Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire

The Las Vegas Raiders have made their first big splash in free agency by signing Chandler Jones. The AFC West has become one of the most competitive divisions in the league over the last few years, and this off-season has capitalized on that. After the Broncos traded for Russell Wilson, the Raiders now must face three of the top ten quarterbacks in the league twice a year.

This begged the question, how was Las Vegas going to respond? Head coach Josh McDaniels and new general manager Dave Ziegler knew Jones was just the right guy.

Super Bowl champ and 4-time Pro Bowler comes to Las Vegas

After days of anticipation, Chandler Jones has agreed to terms with the Raiders. Jones was one of the biggest names on the market this year, landing in the top five of many free agency lists. There weren’t many rumors regarding where Jones might land, so his signing with Las Vegas was a welcome surprise.

Jones is an outside linebacker heading into his eleventh year in the league. He has gotten the Pro-Bowl nod on four separate occasions, including 2021. He has one Super Bowl Championship from his time in New England, and hopes to win another one in Las Vegas.

Jones brings an unbelievable talent to play opposite of Pro-Bowl MVP Maxx Crosby. In 2021, he had an incredible 5-sack game in Week 1. Throughout the rest of the season, Jones tallied up another five sacks, bringing his regular season total to 10.

On top of an impressive number of sacks, Jones had six forced fumbles last season. That number was good for most in the league. His 89.9 pass rush grade per PFF is one of the highest in the league, guiding him to a 70.4 overall grade.

Jones brings top-tier talent to complement Maxx Crosby’s elite level play. In a division that has so many talented QB’s, maximizing their pass rush ability was at the top of the list for the new Raiders regime. It’s clear they found that in Jones.

In 2022, look for Jones and Crosby to be the most consistent edge rushers on the field in silver and black. As of now, they are set to rotate out with Malcolm Koonce, Clelin Ferrell, and Gerri Green. However, as free agency progresses and the NFL draft approaches, this list may adjust.

Women’s History Month: A look at Women in sports

As Women’s History Month begins, let’s look at some incredible examples today.

As March begins, so does one of the most important months of the year: Women’s History Month. Women in sports have changed nearly every aspect of the industry for the better. It would be impossible to do each of them justice, but the work they’ve done deserves to be celebrated.

A powerhouse in baseball

Baseball has long been known as one of America’s favorite pastimes. It is the oldest major professional sport in the world, founded in 1876. Over the course of nearly 150 years, it has changed the lives of many, including Kim Ng.

Kim Ng has long been a part of the world of baseball. Currently, she serves as the general manager of the Miami Marlins, making her the highest-ranking female in baseball. Ng is the first female general manager in MLB history, but it didn’t come easy. Along with being the first female executive, Ng is also the first East Asian American to achieve such a high position in baseball.

Ng’s career in baseball began as an intern for the Chicago White Sox in 1991. Since then, she has held the titles of special projects analyst, assistant director of baseball operations, director of waivers and records, assistant general manager, and now general manager. Kim became the first and youngest woman to hold many of these positions, breaking the glass ceiling time and time again.

Ng serves as an inspiration for women everywhere. Her current position and the path she took to get here show young women everywhere that in a male-dominated sport as old as baseball, women can and will leave their mark.

Hockey’s leading woman

When you think about hockey, it may be easy to get caught up in the brute force and fearlessness it takes to play the sport, but never-ending skating sessions and broken sticks didn’t scare Kendall Coyne-Schofield; they invited her to stay for more.

Coyne-Schofield’s relentless pursuit of greatness has led her to the top. She is now regarded as one of the best women’s hockey players in the world. The three-time Olympic medalist has paved her way in the world of hockey, winning countless awards and receiving never ending recognition.

Her hockey career was the first of its kind, leading her to become the first woman to ever take place in the NHL All-Star Skills competition. Coyne-Schofield replaced NHL superstar Nathan McKinnon in the fastest-skater challenge in 2019, where she placed seventh.

Fresh off a silver medal in Beijing, she is still a member of the USA Women’s Hockey Team. Coyne-Schofield has also gotten the chance to put her hockey knowledge to work as a coach. In 2020, she was hired as the first female player development coach for the Chicago Blackhawks. If that wasn’t enough, Coyne-Schofield has also changed the world of NHL color commentary, a position she held for the San Jose Sharks in 2017.

The impact she has left on the world of hockey and young women everywhere is bigger than any accomplishment summary could explain, but luckily, her advice is available for all, “Always follow your dreams, believe in yourself, and be willing to put in the work it takes to accomplish your dreams.”

Trailblazing the NBA

If you follow basketball closely, you’ve heard of Becky Hammon. She is an exceptional player, a phenomenal coach, and a role model for women everywhere.

Hammon’s playing career was monumental, but what she’s done since then has changed the course of basketball history. In 2014, Hammon became the second female coach in NBA history when she was hired by the San Antonio Spurs, a team she had collaborated with closely in the past. Later that year, Hammon was named ESPNW’s Woman of the Year.

Since 2014, Hammon’s success has only multiplied. One of her most notable accomplishments came in 2020 when she served as the first-ever female acting head coach in the league. Her tremendous work ethic, basketball knowledge, and coaching abilities led her to become the head coach of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces in 2021. She is now the highest-paid women’s basketball coach in history.

Hammon’s tremendous talent for basketball has been recognized by all. She has been praised by coaches, analysts, and, most importantly, her players. NBA legend Pau Gasol wrote an article titled, “An Open Letter About Female Coaches“, where he talked about the importance and excellence of Hammon.

“I’m telling you: Becky Hammon can coach. I’m not saying she can coach pretty well. Im not saying she can coach enough to get by, Im not saying she can coach almost at the level of the NBA’s male coaches. Im saying: Becky Hammon can coach NBA basketball. Period.”

Gasol emphasized the importance of females in basketball after witnessing Hammon’s impact on his team firsthand. Hammon is an inspiration to women everywhere as she continues to blaze trails in the world of basketball and sports.

“Well into adulthood, you have to be careful of the voices that you listen to. You got to guard your eyes, what you’re seeing, you got to guard your ears, what you’re hearing, because eventually, that stuff seeps into your heart. I think what settles into your heart is eventually what you become.” Hammon told the Bronx Times.

Her advice and her actions show young women everywhere that they can accomplish whatever settles into their hearts, whether it’s been done before or not.

Football’s first ladies

In recent years, the NFL has begun to implement female coaches. In 2021, they had a league-high 12 female coaches. They also now have a handful of female referees. Along with women on the field and in the facility, the NFL’s media has also seen an increase in female reporters and journalists. These women have all seen doors opened for them in football by two of the most influential women in the league thus far, Amy Trask and Erin Andrews.

Amy Trask was the NFL’s first female CEO. She became the CEO of the Oakland Raiders in 1997, a position she held until her retirement in 2013. Trask served as Al Davis’ right-hand lady for decades as she changed the world of football as we know it.

“I’m asked all the time if I was tested because I’m a woman. The answer is, we’re all tested all the time. Whether it’s because of our gender, our race, our ethnicity, our age, our seniority, our educational background – we’re tested all the time. Well, what’s the best answer when you’re tested? Pass the damn test.” Trask told SBNation. She showed women everywhere that your input, your dreams, and your skills are valuable, especially in a sport that consists of thousands of men.

Erin Andrews has followed Amy Trask’s lead as one of the most influential women in football. She has risen through the ranks of sports reporting since 2004, and she is now the lead sideline reporter for Fox Sports NFL broadcasting team.

Andrews has inspired hundreds of other sports reporters and women to chase their dreams, and now the NFL embraces the talent of many female football journalists and reporters.

Women like NFL Network’s Colleen Wolfe, Erica Tamposi, Cynthia Frelund, and Rachel Bonetta, CBS Sports’ Aditi Kinkhabwala, ESPN’s Dianna Russini, and many, many more women have broken down barriers. They show each day how important women are to the world of football, and they have opened countless doors. The NFL, as we know it, is headed in a new direction; a direction filled with female input on the sidelines, in the facility, and in front of the camera.

Inspiring change in soccer

One of the biggest stories in sports recently has been the settlement of a gender discrimination lawsuit in soccer. On February 22,2022, U.S. Soccer and the Women’s Players agreed to settle a lawsuit that has been active since 2016.

The terms of the agreement have finally equalized pay for men’s and women’s national soccer teams. This change was led by the hands of the US Women’s National Team’s own public figure and trailblazer, Megan Rapinoe.

Rapinoe has long been one of the best women’s soccer players in the country. She has led her team to two World Cup titles and an Olympic gold medal. Her on-field accomplishments are only surpassed by one thing: her world-changing activism.

She stands proudly for racial and gender equality, leading the charge for women everywhere. Her latest accomplishment on equal pay for women marks the beginning of a new era in major league soccer.

It’s impossible to explain the impact these women have had on the world of sports and sports media. Each day they show a male-dominated industry why their talents are more than valuable, they’re necessary. They serve as role models for women and girls everywhere, because if you see it, you can be it.

This Women’s History Month, take the time to recognize the women in sports that have impacted your favorite team. Spend time speaking on and celebrating the changes they’ve made and the glass ceilings they’ve shattered. This month, take the time to encourage the women in your life to follow their wildest dreams. They are destined to change the world thanks to the help of those that have come before them.

Are These Raider Defenders on the Offseason Chopping Block?

Free agency opens on March 16. The release of these 3 Raider defenders would free up valuable cap space for the Silver and Black.

Las Vegas Raiders, Raider Defenders, Cory Littleton (Photo via USA Today Sports)
Las Vegas Raiders, LB, Cory Littleton (Photo via USA Today Sports)

The Las Vegas Raiders are set to have just less than $19 million in cap space heading into the 2022 free agency market. Players like Derek Carr, Kolton Miller, and Yannick Ngakoue have some of the most major cap hits and a near-guaranteed chance to play with the Silver and Black next season. However, some Raider defenders don’t have the same guarantee.

With just less than three weeks to go before free agency officially begins, it’s time to start thinking about the players whose cap hits may be too high to be justified.

Cory Littleton

When the Raiders signed Cory Littleton in 2020, the move was praised all offseason. He signed a 3-year, $36 million contract, tying him to Sin City through 2022. Alas, the excitement exceeded the outcome, as Littleton has had two down years in Las Vegas.

The former Pro-Bowler has had a combined 0.5 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, and 2 QB hits throughout two seasons, per Pro Football Reference. However, Littleton’s stats have seen a dramatic decrease during his time with the Raiders. For reference, in his last season in Los Angeles, Littleton had 5 QB hits, 3.5 sacks, and 6 tackles for loss.

In 2021, he received a 47.8 overall grade per PFF. His rush defense was poor, but his coverage was worse.

He allowed a reception on nearly 85% of his coverage snaps, proving a massive liability on the field.

The six-year veteran has the third-highest cap hit in 2022, with a $15.7 million salary per Over the Cap. His performance no longer justifies his massive cap hit, making him a solid candidate to be cut before June 1. Unfortunately, Littleton’s release would give the team a lot of dead money, but it would save them nearly $2 million.

Nick Kwiatkoski

The Raiders brought in Nick Kwiatkoski in the same free agency cycle of Cory Littleton. The move wasn’t as splashy, but the former Bear was expected to be a solid, reliable linebacker for a team struggling severely in the secondary.

Kwiatkoski has seen the field in just 20 games throughout two seasons. Injuries have been the name of the game for the 28-year-old, leading to him missing nearly half of the games last season. His impact has been almost unrecognizable, as his 21 combined tackles in 2021 were the second-lowest of his career.

After starting 12 games in 2020, Nick didn’t start once in 2021. However, with the addition and development of Divine Deablo, Denzel Perryman, and others, the Raiders may choose to let the former Chicago Bear go in 2022. His release would add $3.2 million in cap space.

Carl Nassib

Carl Nassib came to the Raiders in 2020 to rescue a dreadful defense like the previous two. In his two seasons in Las Vegas, he’s seen a combined 4 sacks, 49 tackles, and 13 QB hits.

Nassib has been reliable as a Raider. He plays hard and finds a way to get to the quarterback, but with the development of Maxx Crosby and the signing of Yannick Ngakoue, it’s hard to justify Nassib’s salary for another year. In addition, second-year player Malcolm Koonce is a much cheaper option for the team in 2022.

Releasing the 29-year-old will allow him to impact another team while saving the Raiders nearly $3.1 million.

Increasing cap space this offseason will be crucial for Las Vegas. To upgrade their playoff roster, and return to the Super Bowl, the team will need to make some big improvements amongst their Raider defenders.

A Raiders Super Bowl Can Happen With 3 Major Changes

Las Vegas made the playoffs in 2021, but these three things could help propel a Raiders Super Bowl run for the first time since 2002.

Can Derek Carr will a Raiders Super Bowl? (Photo via Getty Images)

The Las Vegas Raiders took a massive step in the right direction in 2021. They improved their bottom-tier defense and finally made the playoffs for the first time since 2016. While this was exciting, we all know that winning a Super Bowl title is the true goal. So with a new coaching staff and a locker room full of dedicated players, let’s take a look at three changes the Raiders need to make to find themselves in the Super Bowl.

The offensive line must improve.

Before 2021, the Raiders had a monstrous offensive line. Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson, Trent Brown, Kolton Miller, and Richie Incognito were all among the best at their position, but 3 of the 5 are making waves on other teams. Former head coach and general manager Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock had faith in their new line. They hoped the likes of Alex Leatherwood and Andre James could fill their big shoes. While it may have seemed promising at the time, the result was far from ideal.

The Silver and Black’s offensive line finished the season ranked 28th out of 32 per Pro Football Focus. Luckily, their hard work began to pay off near the end of the season, and their improvement from Week 1 to the Wild Card Round became undeniable. However, as the team navigates a new offensive line coach and a fresh head coach, it will be crucial to continue to trend upwards.

Keep an eye out to see if the new regime signs any free agent offensive linemen or if they choose to go the route of drafting one. Either way, the first step to getting to the championship game is improving the production of Derek Carr’s front five.

The Raiders’ efficiency in the red-zone must improve on both sides of the football.

All season long, both offense and defense struggled in the red zone. Once the Silver and Black got within the twenty-yard line on either side of the ball, the game plan seemed to sputter and stop.

The Raiders’ defense ranked last in red-zone efficiency through 2021. They allowed a touchdown on 77.08% of opponents’ red zone drives, per teamrankings.com. For comparison, the number one ranked red zone defense, the New Orleans Saints, allowed a touchdown just 43.48 percent of the time.

It’s impossible to argue that the defense didn’t see a massive improvement in 2021. But, if they want to continue to make strides towards the Super Bowl, it starts with not giving up so many points in the red zone. 

Offensively, they ranked 29th in red-zone efficiency, finding the end zone 49.23% of the time. Thankfully, they have an extremely reliable kicker in Daniel Carlson, allowing them to put points on the board much more often than that.

Without Carlson, it’s hard to say how many games the team may have lost due to their inability to score touchdowns as often as necessary.

Thanks to new head coach Josh McDaniels, it’s safe to be cautiously optimistic that the offenses’ scoring ability will improve. In 2021, McDaniels guided his former team, the New England Patriots offense, to a touchdown in the red zone 63.08% of the time, a vast improvement from the Raiders’ less than 50%. An improvement in red zone efficiency on both sides of the ball may put more games in the win column in 2022 and beyond.

A Raiders Super Bowl means no more midseason collapses.

The Raiders have found themselves in a mid-season drought for three consecutive seasons. In 2021, after starting 5-2 before the bye week, Las Vegas lost 5 of 6 games, dropping to 6-7. All three of the previous seasons have been nearly identical. After starting the season strong, the offensive and defensive efficiency declined, and they found themselves far out of playoff contention.

2021 was the outlier. The Silver and Black were able to rally and win their last four games to propel themselves into the playoffs. Without their midseason struggles, the road to the playoffs may have been much smoother. McDaniels and his new team must ensure that the infamous mid-season collapses become a distant memory rather than a constant reality.

The road to a Raiders Super Bowl (or any other teams) isn’t easy. It takes everyone from the front office to the practice squad, and these three things are not the only obstacles Las Vegas has to overcome, but they’re a good start. If Head Coach Josh McDaniels can lead the Silver and Black past these obstacles, a Super Bowl berth may be closer than previously thought.