HENDERSON, Nev. -- Karl Joseph, grizzled veteran leader?
Yeah, it only seems as if Joseph, a first-round draft pick way back in 2016, is still that wet-behind-the-ears, waiting-to-mature youngster trying to get his footing. But given how young, immature and, well, reckless the Las Vegas Raiders secondary is, the return/addition of Joseph is a welcome development for the unit.
"Playmaking," Raiders coach Jon Gruden told ESPN.com when asked what Joseph brings to a rebuilt defense in general, a young secondary in particular.
"Leadership. Versatility. And professionalism."
Joseph, 27, made a memorable exit for the Raiders the last time he wore silver and black. His game-sealing pick of Philip Rivers on a deep pass in Oakland on Nov. 7, 2019, not only gave the Raiders a 26-24 prime-time victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, but Joseph broke his right foot on the play, ending his season. And, at that point, his Raiders tenure.
He spent last season with the Cleveland Browns, starting eight of 14 games. He grabbed a career-high two fumble recoveries and his 67 tackles were the second-most of his career.
The allure of returning to the Raiders and playing in Las Vegas was too much to pass up.
"First off, I never wanted to leave," Joseph said. "I think this is my home. I was drafted here. I feel like I was born to be a Raider ... it felt like the right decision to come back and help finish what I started here and be a part of that and come do whatever I can to help the team win.
"I know this team is built to win and ready to win and take that next step for a championship, so I wanted to come be a part of it. Obviously, you guys know Derek Carr, it starts with him. He's the leader of this team and I think we all believe in him ... Josh Jacobs, he speaks for himself. Darren Waller, Kolton [Miller] and all those guys. And on the defensive side, Maxx [Crosby] and Clelin [Ferrell] and all those guys, they improved a lot from their rookie year when I was here.
"And Johnathan Abram, we played one game together his rookie year and he went down, unfortunately. So I'm looking forward to getting back out there and competing with him and helping to push each other to be our best self."
The Raiders have invested heavily in their secondary in recent drafts, taking safety Abram in the first round and cornerback Trayvon Mullen in the second round in 2019 and cornerback Damon Arnette in the first round in 2020.
As Joseph noted, Abram played one half of one game in his rookie season -- starting at free safety while Joseph was at strong safety -- before missing the rest of the year with a shoulder injury. So how do the two fit in new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley's scheme?
Keep in mind, it's April, and the Raiders still have a draft to consider. And with Las Vegas signing another veteran for the secondary in cornerback Rasul Douglas on Monday, perhaps it'd feel more comfortable adding another youngster to the back end, someone like, say, TCU safety Trevon Moehrig with the No. 17 pick?
"Roles change but my focus right now is to just come in and do my best in whatever is asked of me to help the team win," Joseph said. "Obviously, Coach Gruden and [general manager] Mike Mayock have been building a real good team and I've been paying close attention to that the year I was gone. All the pieces are there. I think we're ready to win, so whatever I'm going to need to do to help us win, that's what I'm going to do."
At 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, Joseph is an undersized safety who came out of college with a rebuilt ACL and has dealt with nagging injuries since entering the NFL as the No. 14 pick five years ago. He has played in 63 of a possible 80 regular-season games, with 49 starts, and has five career interceptions (the same number Mullen, Abram and Arnette have in 55 games combined).
Joseph also has five fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, three sacks, five QB hits, 11 tackles for a loss and 19 passes defensed in his career. Yeah, the Raiders need an active secondary and at the very least, Joseph is around the ball. Which is a needed commodity for Bradley, the architect of the Seattle Seahawks' Legion of Boom back in the day.
"I have a lot of respect for Coach Gus," Joseph said. "Very smart dude, obviously proven in this league, and been successful. He knows what he's doing, so I'm excited to be a part of it and play in his defense.
"I played in a similar defense in Cleveland and so it won't be too much change for me. I think I'll be able to grasp everything pretty quickly, but I'm excited to work with him and learn from him."
The same way Abram, Arnette and Mullen should learn from Joseph.