Raiders look for defensive help on Day 2 of free agency

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ALAMEDA — As the Raiders continue to work toward a hoped-for agreement with wide reciever Jordy Nelson Thursday, they also were connected with at least three defensive free agents — including one that opted to stay with his original team.

Separate reports have the Raiders visiting with two starters — safety Marcus Gilchrist (Houston) and linebacker Tahir Whitehead (Detroit). Johnathan Joseph, a cornerback, told the Houston Chronicle his choice came down to Houston and the Raiders, but that he chose to remain with the Texans.

The Raiders had defensive issues last year during free agency as well, but signed only linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who didn’t make the club out of training camp.

Gilchrist, 29, is coming off a season in which he played in 16 games with 13 starts for the Texans. He has played both safety positions. The Raiders aren’t expected to re-sign 33-year-old free safety Reggie Nelson and are looking for someone to pair with third-year player Karl Joseph on the back end.

The Raiders also have Obi Melifonwu, who was drafted as a safety but saw his rookie season derailed by injuries. Melifonwu did play one came at cornerback against New England and predictably looked lost.

Whitehead, 27, started 31 games in the last two years for Detroit, for whom he has played six seasons. At 6-foot-2, 241 pounds, Whitehead has played all three linebacker positions. The Raiders starting middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman, is currently a free agent, with Bruce Irvin the strong side starter and Cory James a potenial starter on the weak side.

Also on the roster are Division III find Nicholas Morrow, a pleasant surprise as an undrafted rookie last year, and Marquel Lee, a fifth-round draft pick who opened the season as a starter but was replaced by Bowman.

The Raiders are looking for cornerbacks to play alongside second-year player Gareon Conley, having released both David Amerson and Sean Smith. Joseph, who decided to remain with the Texans, is 33.

As for Nelson, the 32-year-old wide receiver, he was reportedly still in Alameda hoping to work out a potential deal but according to NFL Media was also being pursued by New Orleans and Seattle.

view The Mercury News
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