Middle linebacker is the weak link on a rather complete team
The Oakland Raiders are building an offensive powerhouse and it only got better this past offseason with the addition of Jared Cook and Cordarrelle Patterson, utility and secondary weapons but effective if used correctly.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders loaded on defensive backs early in the draft and brought many more of the undrafted variety for their training camp. Some, such as Greenville’s Nicholas Morrow, might even make the final 53.
Between free agency and the NFL Draft, the Raiders made sure they became a better and more well-rounded team. However, preceding the blockbuster contracts of Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson, and Khalil Mack, general manager Reggie McKenzie had to economize at certain positions and middle linebacker was one of them.
Last year’s Raiders top tackler and middle linebacker Malcolm Smith agreed to a 5-year deal worth $26 million with the San Francisco 49ers. He did have a solid year back in 2015 but struggled this past one.
Lead scout Doug Farrar of the Bleacher Report said of Smith that He’s been an acceptable linebacker for the Raiders for the most part, but he has already scratched the top of his potential, and his NFL future is likely as a backup and third-down guy.”
No linebacker backup is worth $5.2 million dollars and Smith was let go without much of a fight.
Another name that was linked to the Raiders opening at linebacker was Zack Brown, who actually engaged in talks regarding a potential contract with the Raiders. At the end, said contract didn’t materialize and Brown ended up signing a one-year deal worth $4.6 million with the Washington Redskins. Although $4.6 million a year does not sound like much, those $4.6 million can be used towards one of those star players incoming contracts. Brown might be able to be a difference maker for the Redskins, but his price didn’t match the Raiders’ budget; he could have been a superb addition for the team had his price tag had been lower.
Perry Riley Jr. was signed off the street last season and had 38 tackles in 11 games. Similarly, he was credited with two forced fumbles; acceptable numbers for a backup, not so much for a starter. The Raiders know him well and there must be a reason why they haven’t resigned him, whether it’s because of his financial demands or he isn’t just good enough.
The Raiders could take a look at players such as David Harris (who was recently released by the Jets), Daryl Smith, D’Qwell Jackson or even former Lion DeAndre Levy, but besides the fact that their best years are behind them, it’s uncertain if they would be an actual upgrade over options that are currently on the roster such as rookie Marquel Lee.
An injury could change McKenzie’s current course of action and he may even end up signing a veteran on the cheap. However and if everything goes according to the plan, whatever money that can be used to reinforce the linebacker corps will be indeed used to sign key players and franchise building blocks for years to come.
Speaking of long-term contracts, what are the Raiders going to do about guard Gabe Jackson? Check out RaiderRamble.com’s thought’s right here.