First, the Raiders missed out on Ndamukong Suh, who signed with the Dolphins. Then Terrance Knighton of the Broncos said Tuesday that he won’t be signing with Oakland.
So, the Raiders went 0-for-2 at the start of free agency in their pursuit of a solid (or better) tackle to plug into their defensive front in 2015.
But it now appears Knighton never was on their wish list at No. 2 behind Suh. Instead, Dan Williams of the Cardinals was the player Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie had his eyes on, and Williams is reported to have signed with the Raiders Wednesday after visiting the team Tuesday. Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com tweeted Wednesday morning that Oakland has signed Williams and linebacker Curtis Lofton, formerly of the Saints. Lofton is a likely replacement for Nick Roach at middle linebacker.
Williams was the No. 3 ranked defensive tackle in free agency, according to NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk, behind only Suh and his Detroit teammate, Nick Fairly.
If the Raiders are intent on getting better against the run, Williams would be a great addition.
The 27-year-old former first-round draft pick in 2010, who played nose tackle in Arizona, is 6-foot-2 and 327 pounds. In five seasons with the Cardinals he has 156 tackles in 40 starts and eight batted passes – but just two sacks.
“His value goes far beyond the box score,” wrote Scott Polacek of Bleacher Report. “He occupies offensive linemen up front with penetration and allows his teammates to burst through open holes to make plays against running backs and quarterbacks. As a quality run-stuffer with experience, he’s still a young player who can help a team in need along the defensive front.”
Pro Football Focus graded Williams as the seventh-best defensive lineman in the NFL against the run in 2014. In fact, he graded higher than both Suh and Knighton against the run last season.
Williams essentially has been a two-down player in Arizona, coming out in passing situations. Though he’s played nose tackle in the 3-4 scheme, he’s believed to be adaptable to Oakland’s 4-3 scheme.
Plugging Williams into the defensive line should be a big upgrade for the Raiders.