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.