Raiders Free Agency: The Case Against Bringing Back Nate Allen
The Oakland Raiders should pass on re-signing veteran safety Nate Allen, and instead go in a different direction for depth.
We’ve seen this movie before — the season ends, and what to do with Nate Allen? In 2016, the Oakland Raiders cut him. Because they’d overpaid to sign him originally, they were on the hook for nearly $16 million through 2018.
So the Raiders released Allen to save some money. But they still needed safety help. They hadn’t yet signed Reggie Nelson or Brynden Trawick or drafted Karl Joseph. So the Raiders re-signed him to a one-year, $3M deal that was much more palatable.
Allen has been a ball hawk in his career, with 13 career interceptions, including three in the past two years with the Raiders while starting only seven games. However, he’s a liability in the run game and cannot seem to stay healthy on a consistent basis.
In two seasons in Oakland, he’s played in 19 of 32 possible games, starting seven. He didn’t have injury issues prior to coming to Oakland, missing only six games in five seasons with Philadelphia. But he cannot stay healthy in Silver and Black.
With the improvement of on-field play by stalwart special teamer Brynden Trawick, Allen has become expendable. This is, of course, adding in Pro-Bowler Nelson and rookie dynamo Joseph. Safety is no longer a spot of desperate weakness — there is some talent and depth there.
Allen will not benefit from a re-signing out of necessity this year.
His play on the field was too sporadic and inconsistent to count on for regular snaps. In a Tweet that is now semi-famous among Raider faithful, Bill Barnwell of ESPN showed just how valuable Joseph is to the Raiders when healthy.
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) January 5, 2017
So by the transitive property, this means that Joseph’s replacement (Allen) was…well, less than valuable. When your overall pass defense degenerates so badly with the loss of one player it’s a very troubling sign and clear that the man replacing them isn’t doing his job.
The Raiders can cut ties with Allen and have no cap hit, and no residual issues. Reggie McKenzie is team-building dynamo brilliant at eliminating dead money and has shown he will do what is best for the team. Re-signing Allen in 2017, when the position is deep and Joseph will only improve with a healthy offseason and experience, just doesn’t make the same sense it did in 2016.
What happens if the Raiders do re-sign Allen? Does he even make the final 53-man roster in 2017? He’s a decent special teams player but not on the level of Trawick, or Andre Holmes or Daren Bates.
These are all fringe roster players who are free agents as well. Is Allen’s ability as a safety enough to supplant others with better special teams chops — that may also come a bit cheaper?
Allen showed last year he’s willing to play ball in negotiations and to take less money to stay in Oakland. He did just that last February. He will need to take yet another pay cut after his value dipped a bit in 2016 — or be out the door.
With Trawick, Joseph, Nelson, Keith McGill and T.J Carrie having the ability to play safety as well, this team has more wiggle room. There are better options at safety in free agency — Eric Berry should be a top target even as he wants to stay in KC.
Jonathan Cyprien, Tony Jefferson, Barry Church, Ricardo Allen, Micah Hyde, T.J. McDonald, Mike Adams. Those are some good options right there — if they’re allowed to leave their respective teams.
But all are certainly better options than Allen – some better than Nelson. These are the top of the heap — and many made less in 2016 than Allen. There are plenty of great options this year, tons of depth at all levels of safety.
A lesser known but solid player like Quintin Demps, Jahleel Addae, or Daniel Sorensen would be an improvement over Allen. Recurring injuries the past two seasons seem to have robbed Allen of some speed and agility. His play on the field when the Raiders needed their defense the most wasn’t overly impressive. Indeed, Trawick replaced him in the starting lineup for the season finale.
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Starting safety is not a major position of need any longer even though Nelson is getting up there at 32. But depth is always good and necessary. That depth is available via free agency, likely for less than what Allen expects he’s worth.
In fact, out of all free agent safeties Allen comes in with the 24th best (68.1) overall grade from Pro Football Focus, behind such stalwarts as Kamel Ishmael, Anthony Levine and Jordan Poyer. This just underscores the depth available at safety.
The Raiders have far more options — and talent — at safety in 2017 than they did last year. The free agency and 2017 draft class are chock full of excellent safeties. There is no longer a dearth of depth or talent at safety on the Raiders. The open market is looking mighty appealing for options.
These are all good things from a Raiders perspective. Not so much if you’re Nate Allen.