Editor's note: We'll take a look at several Raiders training camp battles leading up to the first full-squad practice on Saturday, and then we'll update their progress throughout the preseason. Let's get into the second one, focusing on safeties.
The Raiders have taken a first-round safety in two of the last four years. They still paid a veteran top dollar to join the mix their and slot corner. They extended a special teams player with some starts to his credit.
In short: the Raiders have options at safety, lots of them good.
That position will shake out in training camp, which starts this week in Napa.
This year's No. 27 overall draft pick is already there. Johnathan Abram reported to camp Tuesday with the Raiders rookies, already in good position to snag a starting spot. Coaches love the Mississippi State alum, whom joined the first unit later in the offseason program. He carries unshakable confidence and skill into his work as a do-everything safety that seems pro ready.
He paired with 2016 first-rounder Karl Joseph during the offseason program, who should still be a factor despite the team declining his fifth-year option. The team came away impressed by his recovery from injury and a slow start, when he found his footing in a role tailored to his strengths.
Erik Harris evolved into a defensive role last season, with the size and length to play free safety. He has clearly assumed a vocal leadership role in the back, and will fight for a job either on every down or obvious passing situations. He might end up being a super sub capable of playing anywhere, a valuable commodity in the secondary.
Lamarcus Joyner is the x-factor in all this. He's clearly the team's best free safety, but the high-priced free agent signing focused on slot cornerback to this point. That could change during training camp. Time will tell on that front. Coaches could split his focus – he's fully capable of switching between free safety and slot corner – right away or bring him back to safety at times should one of the aforementioned contenders flop.
Curtis Riley and Jordan Richards are also veterans in the mix, though they're firmly on the roster bubble.
Early edge: Abram and Joseph at safety, with Joyner primarily at slot CB.