Raiders 2023 free agency tracker: Austin Hooper has chance to start at tight end

NFL free agency is off and running, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2023 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from our experts. The new league year began March 15 at 4 p.m. ET, which means free agent signings can be made official after that. The first round of the 2023 NFL draft begins April 27 on ESPN.

The Raiders entered free agency starting over at quarterback, as they released Derek Carr after nine years with the organization. Second-year coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler are looking to put their mark on a team that struggled to a 6-11 record in a 2022 season that was filled with close, heartbreaking defeats. While Las Vegas has brought in reinforcements for a defense that was 28th in the league last season, its biggest splashes so far have come on offense.

Here's a breakdown of every 2023 NFL free agent signing by the Las Vegas Raiders, and how each will impact the upcoming season:

Brian Hoyer, quarterback

The Raiders signed the veteran quarterback to a two-year contract.

What it means: All three quarterbacks on the Raiders' roster -- Jimmy Garoppolo, Chase Garbers and, now, Hoyer -- have experience in coach Josh McDaniels' system. And unless someone they love enough to take early in the draft presents himself, Las Vegas probably looks elsewhere to fill roster holes with its first-round pick, especially if they stay put at No. 7 overall. Hoyer, who had three different tours of duty with the Patriots (2009-11, 2018 and 2020-22), was with McDaniels for the latter two. He has started 40 of the 76 games in which he has played over a 14-year NFL career and has thrown for 10,668 yards with 53 touchdown passes and 35 interceptions for a passer rating of 82.9 while completing 59.4% of his attempts.

What's the risk: Little. The prototypical backup, Hoyer is coming in to help Garoppolo with the transition. Any risk would be in assuming he would overtake Garoppolo for the starting gig. It’s all about trust in the Raiders' QB Room now, trust in McDaniels and in his system ... and vice-versa. You just have to wonder if all the QBs on the roster are peeking over their shoulder at the newest member of the WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces ownership group to see if Tom Brady is staying in shape in case a certain somebody gets injured. Yeah, Raiders owner Mark Davis is also the Aces owner.

DeAndre Carter, wide receiver

The Raiders signed Carter, who played for the Los Angeles Chargers last season, to a contract.

What it means: The conspiracy theorist would say the Raiders are prepping for life without slot receiver Hunter Renfrow, a frequent target of trade rumors this offseason. The apologist might say the Raiders are simply making a strength even stronger. Yes, Carter is the fifth receiver signed by Las Vegas in free agency, including returner Keelan Cole. Carter started seven of the 17 games he appeared in last season for the Chargers, going for career highs in catches (46), yards (538) and TD catches (3). He is also a skilled return man, averaging 11.7 yards per punt return last season, 22.3 yards in his career on kickoffs.

What's the risk: The Raiders already have an All-Pro in Davante Adams, a legit No. 2 in signee Jakobi Meyers and, well, Renfrow, whom coach Josh McDaniels said is expected to have a big year ... if healthy. So many receiver additions make many wonder why? And if the receiver room is too crowded, it might be subtraction by addition, right?

Alex Bars, guard

The Raiders re-signed Bars to a contract.

What it means: The Raiders have now brought back the starting right side of their offensive line -- they earlier re-signed tackle Jermaine Eluemunor -- and having already re-signed tackle Brandon Parker and second-year OL Thayer Munford, perhaps taking an offensive lineman early in the draft is off the table. As noted before, the Raiders O-line was a pleasant surprise last season, though pre-snap penalties were an issue.

What's the risk: Literally, none. Bars, who started a career-high 14 games last season, was a road-grader at right guard who helped Josh Jacobs become the first Raider to lead the NFL in rushing since Marcus Allen in 1985. Bars was more than solid last season and with continuity being important, the line should only benefit from his return, especially if it has improved enough that he has to compete for his old gig.

John Jenkins, defensive tackle

The Raiders signed Jenkins, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, to a contract.

What it means: Long-awaited help on the interior. Don't get it twisted, the Raiders might still be tempted to address the need in the draft -- imagine the handwringing if Georgia's Jalen Carter is still there at No. 7? -- but Jenkins brings a lot of much-needed experience to the D-line. As in 116 games over 10 NFL seasons for five different teams -- the Saints, Seahawks, Bears, Giants and, the last two years, the Dolphins.

What's the risk: The Raiders need push from the interior to help edge rushers Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones. Jenkins has (checks notes) 2.5 sacks in his 10-year career. Two. Point. Five. And he's only started 30 games, only starting more than five games in a season once. The risk, then, would be in expecting him to provide that push. Jenkins is a space eater, a 6-foot-3, 335-pounder who has nine QB hits in his career to go with his 212 tackles.

Keelan Cole, wide receiver

The Raiders re-signed Cole, who originally came over from the New York Jets in 2022, to a contract.

What it means: The Raiders have another receiver familiar with the system, even if Cole will be battling recent signee Cam Sims for snaps behind Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Hunter Renfrow and Phillip Dorsett. Yes, Cole had one of the more clutch TD catches of the season -- even if replays kinda, sorta showed the tip of his cleat out of bounds -- to set up Chandler Jones' improbable walk-off return against the Patriots, but Cole is more of a role player who settled nicely into said role.

What's the risk: None, unless Cole believes he deserves a bigger role in the receiver room and causes a ruckus. Unlikely. Cole deserved to return, but as depth and a special teamer, especially if Renfrow is healthy enough to regain his slot spot. Cole caught 10 passes for 141 yards and the one TD last season for the Raiders. In 93 career games (37 starts) over six seasons, the speedy Cole has 197 catches for 2,832 yards and 14 TDs.

Duke Shelley, cornerback

Shelley, who previously played for the Minnesota Vikings, signed a contract to join the Raiders.

What it means: As with most of the recent wave of signings, more depth at a position that needs it. Shelley, now in a room that includes returners Nate Hobbs and Amik Robertson and signees Brandon Facyson and David Long Jr., could still be joined by a draft pick or two. Shelley has started 11 of the 41 games he’s played in and has one career interception with 12 passes defensed. Last year's first career pick was even sweeter, as it came against his original team, the Bears, and he celebrated by spiking the ball on Chicago’s midfield logo.

What's the risk: The 5-foot-9, 176-pound Shelley shouldn't be much of a risk, as he is a later-wave signing who will be given the opportunity to compete after playing on the outside in Minnesota. Plus, the sixth-round pick of the Bears in 2019 is coming off a season with the Vikings in which he had career highs in games played (11), starts (five), passes defensed (eight) and that first career pick.

Austin Hooper, tight end

Terms were not disclosed by the Raiders, but a source confirmed to ESPN that Hooper, who spent last season with the Tennessee Titans, agreed to a one-year deal.

What it means: The Raiders may have found a suitable replacement for former Pro Bowler Darren Waller, traded to the Giants for a third-round draft pick. Hooper has been named to two Pro Bowls, albeit, in 2018 and 2019. Still, he has more bona fides at the position that anyone else on the Raiders' current roster. And his 339 career catches for 3,468 yards and 25 touchdowns are 197 more catches, 1,459 more yards and five more TDs than O.J. Howard, Jesper Horsted and Cole Fotheringham have in their careers, combined.

What's the risk: Hooper is two inches shorter than Waller, who also had receiver speed. Plus, Hooper only started two of the 17 games in which he played last season, his 41 catches the third-lowest total of his seven-year career and his two TD catches a career low. So which Hooper are the Raiders getting, one re-energized by the move to Las Vegas, or a tight end on the downside of his career playing on his third different team in as many years? With 12 picks in a draft deep with tight ends, Las Vegas may still need to select one.

David Long Jr., cornerback

The Raiders signed Long, formerly of the Los Angeles Rams, to a contract.

What it means: Another body at a position that is in desperate need for, well, bodies. Long has started 10 games for the Rams, who selected him in the third round of the 2019 draft out of Michigan, in his 52-game NFL career. He has one interception and seven passes defensed and also a pick-six against the Cardinals in the 2021 playoffs. He was inactive for the Rams' epic comeback win against the Raiders at SoFi Stadium in Week 14 last season.

What's the risk: Nothing, unless the Raiders thought they were signing the linebacker by the same name. But there is no risk if Long is in Las Vegas for depth and special teams play. Still, the Raiders' current depth chart at cornerback leaves something to be desired with new signee/returner Brandon Facyson, slot corner Nate Hobbs, who can also play on the outside, and Amik Robertson.

Cam Sims, wide receiver

The Raiders signed Sims, who previously played for the Washington Commanders, to a contract.

What it means: A potential No. 5 or No. 6 receiver type, after All-Pro Davante Adams, returner Hunter Renfrow and new signees Jakobi Meyers and Phillip Dorsett, the massive Sims (6-foot-5, 220 pounds), probably assumes the role of the departed Mack Hollins as a special teams ace at gunner. Sims can play multiple receiver spots and in 55 career games with Washington, including 17 starts, over five seasons, he caught 57 passes for 804 yards and three touchdowns. Last season, he had eight catches for 89 yards in 17 games, three starts.

What's the risk: None, really, unless Sims can't replicate Hollins' preternatural ability to down punts inside the 5-yard line. With the spate of injuries to Renfrow and then-tight end Darren Waller last year, Hollins' pass-catching productivity spiked and he got a big deal with the Falcons. With a healthy Renfrow and the additions of Meyers and Dorsett, Sims can focus on special teams.

Jaquan Johnson, safety

Johnson, who played for the Buffalo Bills last season, signed a contract with the Raiders.

What it means: The Raiders have added a second safety in free agency, with Johnson joining former Eagle Marcus Epps, along with returner Tre'von Moehrig. Johnson, 27, projects more as depth, though, as he has started just four of the 60 career games in which he played for the Bills. He has two interceptions and two passes defensed in his career with 39 tackles (21 solo). Last year, he started three games and had career highs in tackles (25) with an INT and a pass defensed.

What's the risk: Little, unless he wins a starting gig because his inexperience as a starter could raise questions. Still, he brings postseason experience, having appeared in eight playoff games for the Bills. That would be welcomed in Las Vegas, especially with Epps coming off a Super Bowl run with the Eagles.

O.J. Howard, tight end

The Raiders signed Howard, who previously played for the Houston Texans, to a contract.

What it means: The Raiders, having traded Darren Waller to the Giants and allowed Foster Moreau to hit free agency, have a tight end on the roster who has started more than one game in the NFL. The 6-feet-6, 251-pound Howard, a first-round pick of the Buccaneers in 2017 who has started 60 of the 74 career games in which he's played, has caught 129 passes for 1,882 yards and 17 touchdowns in his career. He jones Jesper Horsted and Cole Fotheringham as tight ends on the Raiders' roster.

What's the risk: Standing pat. Howard is coming off a career-low 10 catches last season in 13 games for the Texans, and his only two TD catches came in the season opener. While the draft is deep with tight ends, and the Raiders probably have to select one, it's hard to see them using the No. 7 pick on one. And it's probably a huge stretch to say Howard is familiar with the offensive system even though he played in Tampa Bay with Tom Brady, who knows Josh McDaniels' scheme but didn't play in it when paired with Howard.

Jordan Willis, defensive end

Willis, who previously played for the San Francisco 49ers, signed with the Raiders.

What it means: Depth for what is already a strength on a defense that needs, well, depth. And front-line players. Willis spent the last two-plus seasons as a rotational player for the 49ers at both linebacker and defensive end, racking up 7.5 of his 10.5 career sacks with the Niners. Any extra push to help out Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones would be greatly welcomed in Las Vegas.

What's the risk: None, unless the Raiders are done addressing pass-rush help with the signing of Willis and the re-signing of Jerry Tillery. Willis was originally a third-round draft pick of the Bengals in 2017 and while he has played 69 career games, he has only started twice. Yeah, with 12 picks in this year's draft, expect Las Vegas to add more bodies.

Jacob Bobenmoyer, long-snapper

The Raiders signed Bobenmoyer, who previously played for the Broncos, to a three-year, $3.815 million contract.

What it means: Competition for a low-key valuable position at best, messing with All-Pro level chemistry at worst. Trent Sieg has been the Raiders' long snapper since 2018, while punter AJ Cole and kicker Daniel Carlson have enjoyed All-Pro seasons the past two years, respectively, so why would you want to mess with that chemistry? Bobenmoyer spent the last three seasons with the Broncos and his special teams coach there in 2020 and 2021 was current Raiders special teams coach Tom McMahon.

What's the risk: Whether you believe in chemistry or not, timing is everything in sports. The trio of Sieg, Carlson and Cole has been together since 2019 so potentially taking Sieg, who is still under contract, out of the equation in favor of Bobenmoyer is a head-scratcher, no doubt. He did play tight end in high school, though, and the Raiders do need a tight end, or three. We kid. Kinda.

Jermaine Eluemunor, offensive tackle

The Raiders re-signed Eluemunor to a contract. Terms are unknown.

What it means: If you’ve been paying attention to Eluemunor's Twitter feed, his return means the Raiders will have the best pair of tackles in the league, with him on the right side and Kolton Miller protecting new QB Jimmy Garoppolo's blind side. A bold statement indeed. Because while Eluemunor's play improved down the stretch, he also started once each at right guard and left tackle last season. Might he be moved to right guard, though, if the Raiders use a high draft pick on a right tackle? Alex Bars, who started 12 of Las Vegas' last 13 games at right guard, is still unsigned.

What's the risk: As noted above, Eluemunor’s play did improve as he solidified his standing at right tackle, but are the Raiders sold enough to perhaps pass on a foundational right tackle should one present itself early in the draft? Eluemunor's strength is in his versatility, as evidenced by his starting at three spots on the line last season, and while the line was a pleasant surprise -- Josh Jacobs became the first Raider to lead the league in rushing since Marcus Allen in 1985 -- Las Vegas cannot settle, either.

Hroniss Grasu, center

The Raiders re-signed Grasu to a contract. Terms are unknown.

What it means: Bringing back the back-up center who also started a game at right guard means he made enough of an impression to be brought back. That's it and that's all. He's played in 31 games in his seven seasons, with 17 starts, but with a rumor floating last week that starting center Andre James was on the trading block, at least he'd provide experience, though it was then-rookie Dylan Parham who started two games at center when James was out with a concussion.

What's the risk: None. At least, none in March. Grasu provides depth and versatility, as shown by his start at right guard. And that is heavily valued by coach Josh McDaniels. The offensive line is a work in progress and at least a returning Grasu beings experience in the system.

Curtis Bolton, linebacker

The Raiders re-signed Bolton to a contract. Terms are not known.

What it means: The Raiders have at least started to address the depth problem at linebacker in re-signing Bolton. They signed former Steeler Robert Spillane to "compete" for the green dot as the defensive playcaller but Bolton provides, well, depth. He appeared in a career-high 10 games for Las Vegas last season and had five special teams tackles.

What's the risk: The tackles on special teams, two solo, three assists, were the only stats attributed to Bolton last season so, unless he is suddenly thrust into a starting role -- not likely given the addition of Spillane and return of Divine Deablo -- there is little risk, as he is a depth guy and a locker room cutup.

Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle

The Raiders re-signed Tillery to a contract. Terms are unknown.

What it means: Tillery, a first-round pick of the Chargers in 2019, showed enough to the Raiders in eight games to close out the season to be brought back. Simple enough. He had 10 tackles, two QB hits and provided some much-needed push from the interior of the defensive line. Las Vegas obviously believes the talent is there and that a full offseason program will only benefit him and, thus, the team. Even as the most recent of his 10.5 career sacks came in the penultimate game of the 2021 season.

What's the risk: That he didn't learn from his knocking the ball out of then-Rams quarterback Baker Mayfield's hands, costing the Raiders a 15-yard penalty and a first down in the Rams’ epic comeback win against the Raiders in Week 14. We kid. Kinda. The play was but one in a series of miscues that cost Las Vegas that night. But Tillery, claimed off waivers last season, is obviously going to be counted on to be a consistent presence in the trenches, so they need consistently smart play.

Roderic Teamer, safety

The Raiders are planning to re-sign Teamer to a contract of undisclosed length.

What it means: The Raiders obviously saw something they liked in the backup strong safety's play last season, in which he started three of the 17 games he played, with 14 of his 35 tackles coming in the final four games. Teamer, who turns 26 in May, originally joined Las Vegas as a free agent in 2021 and provides depth in the secondary, what with the signing of veteran Marcus Epps, as well as solid special teams play.

What's the risk: Little to none, unless he is thrust into a bigger role than envisioned. As it stands now, Epps and Tre'von Moehrig should be the starting safeties. But as a returning player, Teamer knows defensive coordinator Patrick Graham's system and continuity should be paramount as the defense is rebuilt. Again.

Phillip Dorsett, wide receiver

The Raiders will sign Dorsett, who most recently played for the Houston Texans, to a contract.

What it means: The third former Patriots offensive player to join the Raiders thus far, along with QB Jimmy Garoppolo and WR Jakobi Meyers, Dorsett is the classic burner. He ran a 4.25-second 40 at his Pro Day at Miami in 2015. His addition, as well as Meyers joining Las Vegas, seemingly puts into question the future of former Pro Bowl slot receiver Hunter Renfrow, who signed a two-year, $32 million extension last June. Dorsett, a first-round pick of the Colts, has 151 receptions for 2,001 yards and 12 touchdowns in his career, with eight TDs coming with the Patriots in 2018-19.

What's the risk: As fast as he is, Dorsett's 13.3 yards per catch career average doesn't necessarily jump off the page. And this move wouldn't mean Renfrow is on his way out the door like former Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller, does it? Dorsett, 30, has long been a complementary piece, so trying to make him a featured player -- he started eight games for New England in his three-year Patriots tenure from 2017-19 -- might be a bit bold. If that’s the plan.

Jakob Johnson, fullback

The Raiders are re-signing Johnson for one year, his agents confirmed to ESPN.

What it means: Continuity at a position valued in coach Josh McDaniels' offensive system. Because while Johnson has yet to attempt a single rushing carry in his four-year career, he was a punishing lead blocker for All-Pro running back Josh Jacobs, who led the NFL in rushing with 1,653 yards. The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Johnson has also caught 18 passes for 93 yards in his career and is a feel-good locker room leader who helped with the transition in Las Vegas, with so many former Patriots joining the Raiders. Yeah, Johnson spent the first three years of his career with McDaniels in New England.

What's the risk: Seeing how he handles his first career carry if/when it happens? Ball security and all. He only touched the ball five times last season, so if Johnson suddenly has to produce as a ball carrier, that would be an issue. Otherwise, it’s a low-risk reward of a re-signing that makes a lot of sense for a loyal player.

Robert Spillane, linebacker

Spillane will sign a two-year deal worth $9 million, ESPN has confirmed.

What it means: Woefully thin at linebacker, the Raiders addressed the inside "thumper" role with Spillane, who excels in run defense but leaves more to be desired in pass coverage. Spillane, who started five of the career-high 16 games he played in last season for the Steelers, became a cult hero, of sorts, for a big goal-line hit he put on Derrick Henry in 2020. The only other linebackers currently under contract in Las Vegas are Divine Deablo, Luke Masterson and Darien Butler. Spillane had a career-high 79 tackles last season, with a sack and four passes defensed.

What's the risk: Not much, so long as he is not the only linebacker the Raiders add. Denzel Perryman was a Pro Bowler in 2021 but was hit hard by injuries last season, missing the last two games with a left shoulder injury suffered at Pittsburgh. He is also a free agent. As noted, Spillane's coverage skills are wanting and in the AFC West, where tight ends beast and feast, Spillane should not be left alone in coverage. The Raiders thought they were getting a run-stopping linebacker on the upswing a few years back in Nick Kwiatkoski and that didn't work.

Jakobi Meyers, wide receiver

Meyers has agreed to a three-year contract with the Raiders worth $33 million, including $21 million guaranteed, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

What it means: The New England-to-Las Vegas connection continues and the Raiders add a legit No. 2 receiver behind All-Pro Davante Adams. Meyers, who played for Raiders coach Josh McDaniels for three seasons when the latter was New England's offensive coordinator, led the Patriots with 804 receiving yards and a career-high six touchdown catches on 67 receptions last season. He's a big target at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and is especially adept between the numbers, adding another weapon for new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. But it also relegates Mack Hollins -- who was second in catches (57), receiving yards (690) and receiving TDs (4) -- back to special teams ace, should Las Vegas re-sign him.

What's the risk: Sure, Meyers is 4-for-4 for 88 yards and two TD passes on trick plays in his career, but don’t let him throw a backwards lateral on a kick return. Or have you forgotten his ill-fated (for the Patriots) attempt that Chandler Jones plucked out of the air and returned for a walk-off TD last season? Besides that, fitting him into an offense that already features All-Pros in Adams and running back Josh Jacobs and former Pro Bowl slot receiver Hunter Renfrow should be a "good" problem to have. Right?

Brandon Facyson, cornerback

Facyson, who played for the Colts in 2022, agreed to terms with the Raiders on an undisclosed contract.

What it means: The Raiders continue to address a weak link in the defense -- the secondary, in general, cornerback in particular -- in bringing back a familiar face. Facyson, who played for the Colts last year, was with Las Vegas in 2021 and enjoyed a career season with 13 passes defensed and an interception in 12 games for the Raiders, starting nine. He went to Indianapolis last season and started four of 16 games and has six passes defensed. He’s a big corner at 6-foot-2, 197 pounds, so he presents a certain presence preferred by the Raiders at the position.

What's the risk: Are the Raiders good with Facyson over Rock Ya-Sin as a physical press corner? While Ya-Sin is a free agent, Las Vegas still has Nate Hobbs and Amik Robertson at the position, though both excel in the slot. And while Facyson has played in 72 games, he has only started 17 times in his five-year career. Re-signing Ya-Sin and/or using a high draft pick on a cornerback -- Oregon's Christian Gonzalez? -- could still be in the works.

Marcus Epps, safety

The Raiders will sign Epps to a two-year deal worth $12 million, with roughly $8 million guaranteed.

What it means: The Raiders are addressing a weak link in the defense -- the secondary -- with the addition of Epps, who played 1,058 defensive snaps last season, most on the NFC champs. With 94 tackles and a career-best 6 passes defensed with a forced fumble in a career-high 17 starts, Epps should be a fine complement to free safety Tre'von Moehrig as the last line of Las Vegas' defense. The Raiders could still add a body, or three, at safety, though, as Duron Harmon, who had two interceptions last season, is also a free agent.

What's the risk: Burned in recent years by the uneven play of Johnathan Abram, a first-round pick in 2019 who never panned out, Epps has also graded out as a stopper against the run game but a liability against the pass. The Raiders cannot afford to fall into a similar trap. As such, they also need to add players at the position because, besides Epps and Moehrig, Isaiah Pola-Mao and Roderic Teamer, a restricted free agent, are the only other safeties currently under contract.

Jimmy Garoppolo, quarterback

Garoppolo agreed to a three-year, $67.5 million deal, including $34 million guaranteed, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. He will be reunited with Raiders coach Josh McDaniels, who served as the Patriots' offensive coordinator during Garoppolo's three years in New England.

What it means: With only one other quarterback (Chase Garbers) on the roster, Garoppolo is the Raiders' QB1. It also means Las Vegas, which owns the No. 7 overall pick, is in the market to draft a QB, either by trading up or snagging one of the top 4 quarterbacks -- Alabama's Bryce Young, Ohio State's C.J. Stroud, Kentucky's Will Levis or Florida's Anthony Richardson -- if they are there at No. 7. They could also wait until Day 2 and go with Tennessee's Hendon Hooker or Fresno State's Jake Haener. Garoppolo, though, has an edge. Besides being a veteran, he also has experience in coach Josh McDaniels' system from their time together in New England. Plus, the $34 million guaranteed is $6 million less than the Raiders would have owed Derek Carr in guaranteed money over the next two seasons.

What's the risk: If availability is the best ability, then there are red flags. Because while Garoppolo does have a career record of 40-17, he has been bitten by the injury bug a lot in his career and has missed 18 games over the last three seasons. In San Francisco, Garoppolo was blessed with having a top-flight defense. That hasn't been the case with the Raiders, who are also reimagining their defense for the umpteenth time in recent years. And while Garoppolo does know McDaniels' system, he last played in it in 2016. How steep with the re-learning curve be?