Raiders Pushed to Extend 26-Year-Old Breakout Star

The Las Vegas Raiders saw improvement from several young players last season but perhaps the player who had the biggest breakout year was defensive end Malcolm Koonce. The former third-round pick had a hard time getting on the field during his first three seasons but was able to take advantage of the extra opportunities in 2023.

He had a career-high 8.0 sacks and could be an ascending player. If the Raiders think that Koonce is only going to get better, Ryan Fowler of Bleacher Report believes the team needs to consider giving him an extension.

“The running mate to Maxx Crosby, Koonce totaled career highs in pressures (52), sacks (8), and QB hits (10),” Fowler wrote in a June 23 column. “After what was a quiet first two years for Koonce since entering the league back in 2021, his rapid development has provided large expectations in 2024 under defensive-minded HC Antonio Pierce.

“While Las Vegas has other extension candidates that may remain higher on the priority list, if Koonce should be in line for a healthy pay day if he’s able to replicate his success from 2023.”

Signing or not signing Koonce to an extension now is risky. If they sign him and he keeps getting better, they’ll likely have him on a discount but the price would only go up if they didn’t sign him now. However, if 2023 was a fluke, then paying him now would be a big mistake. It’s a tough call for the team to make.

How Much Could Malcolm Koonce Get?

If Koonce were to sign an extension now, he’d likely be getting something in the $10 million-a-year range. That would put him around what average veteran pass rushers are getting. The best strategy for him might be to wait until after the season.

If he improves on the 8.0 sacks he had in 2023, he’d be in line for a contract that could pay him $12 to $15 million a season. It might be worth the risk for him to bet on himself. That would put the Raiders in an interesting situation if Tyree Wilson takes a leap in Year 2. He was supposed to be the team’s No. 2 pass rusher last season but Koonce outperformed him.

Wilson is on a rookie contract for at most four more seasons so the Raiders don’t need to think about paying him. If Wilson proves to be a good No. 2 pass rusher, the need to pay Koonce is much smaller.

Other Las Vegas Raiders Looking at Extensions

The most obvious Raider likely looking at a contract extension is cornerback Nate Hobbs. He’s entering a contract year and has been one of the team’s best defenders since he came into the NFL. He seems like the most likely candidate to get an extension.

Safety Tre’von Moehrig may also be worth locking down. He had a great rookie year but struggled in Year 2. He bounced back in Year 3 and looks to be one of the players for the Raiders to build around. The asking price for safeties isn’t steep so the team could sign him at a relatively low number.

Marcus Epps and Robert Spillane aren’t on rookie deals but they are on expiring contracts. The Raiders should be motivated to extend both of their team captains. That would send a strong message to the rest of the veterans on the roster that the team is willing to extend players who step up and provide leadership.

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