Raiders Check Several Boxes in Free Agency, Cornerback Remains Atop Wishlist

Tahir Whitehead visited the Raiders facility on Thursday afternoon, unaware of how hectic things were in Alameda.

The veteran linebacker was worried about his big day, and the reported three-year, $18 million contract being worked out on his behalf. He signed on the dotted line, took some pictures for the occasion, unlocked his phone then hopped back on the grid.

His timeline was slammed with Raiders news. Turns out Reggie McKenzie, Jon Gruden and Co. had been busy. Raiders brass was in the midst of a one-team free-agent frenzy, signing six players in a day's work.

"I didn't get a chance to see how active they were today until I got a chance to get back to my phone and realized how many guys they signed," Whitehead said. "I'm like ‘dang, they're making a lot of moves.' Once I got a chance to see some of the guys that were signed, I thought adding those guys with some of the pieces that they already have on the team, this team can be something that's going to go out there and do damage."

The Raiders filled a number of needs Thursday, but aren't done constructing their roster. They added a big fish in receiver Jordy Nelson. They added Whitehead and safety Marcus Gilchrist as presumptive starters. They re-signed blocking tight end Lee Smith and added another in Derek Carrier. Backup running back Doug Martin came aboard. So did blocking fullback Keith Smith.

A few more pieces are required.

Cornerback remains a major issue free agency can fix. The Raiders are looking for a veteran to start opposite 2017 first-round pick Gareon Conley, and haven't found one yet. They just missed on Jonathan Joseph, who elected to stay in Houston. They targeted a few others, but never let Rashaan Melvin out of their sights.

They declared interest in the former Indianapolis Colts cornerback early this week, have exchanged some preliminary financial parameters and, according to Pro Football Talk, will host him on a free-agent visit Friday in Alameda.

That would be an important get, considering Sean Smith and David Amerson were cut and TJ Carrie agreed on a contract with Cleveland Wednesday afternoon. Also, the free-agent pool's getting shallow, with most quality cover men gone in free-agency's first wave.

Melvin, 28, had a career year in 2017, allowing just 29 receptions for 328 yards and two touchdowns on 55 targets. He had three interceptions, 10 passes defensed and had a paltry 60.3 passer rating against him.

He was worse in his first three years, and has struggled some with injury. He stands 6-foot-2, 196 pounds and has the athleticism to excel in Paul Guenther's system.

Even if Melvin signs on the dotted line as expected, the Raiders need another corner through free agency or the draft.

They could use some defensive linemen as well. A 4-3 base end wouldn't hurt, and the Raiders are still looking for added interior pass rush and run defense. They've reportedly shown interest in Minnesota's Tom Johnson. They host former 49er Tank Carradine on Thursday, but a source said he left without a contract.

NaVorro Bowman's a hanging chad, even with Whitehead in the mix. As NBC Sports Bay Area reported Thursday night, the Raiders hoped to sign Bowman by Wednesday afternoon. That didn't happen, with the linebacker still looking for a better deal. If a market doesn't develop, will the Raiders re-sign Bowman and pair him with Whitehead? That could still happen, but it's an unknown at this stage.

Right tackle's also a clear need, though the NFL draft seems a likely void filler there.

Several signees cited Jon Gruden as an attraction. Can the new head coach close a few more deals? He must for the Raiders to supplement this roster within limited salary-cap space.

The Raiders put in a long Thursday, must keep grinding to properly import veteran talent.

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