Moving up, or moving on? Vol. 8: Linebackers
The Raiders linebackers corps was arguably their worst unit in 2019, partially from a talent standpoint, but from what I saw, mostly from a “use” standpoint. Most of these guys were misused, left to shadow players they had no business covering. While I see some returning, I believe this group can have a whole new batch of starters when the 2020 season kicks off.
So who’s moving up with Raiders and who’s moving on to the unemployment line? Lets dig in:
Split decision: Whitehead didn’t impress Raider Nation much on the field. In 16 games, he racked up 108 tackles (79 solo, 29 assisted, six for loss), one quarterback hit, and one pass defensed. He is one of the ones I believe was misused. Back in college, the linebacker made a name for himself rushing the passer and stopping the run. Unfortunately, since joining the NFL, it seems he has been used more in coverage and has not gotten to the point coaches wish he would. He is also known as a leader in both the locker room and in the community, which carries its own value.
He is due $7.2 million this year and can be dropped for $1 million. If the Raiders need the extra money, he will be cut or restructured for less. If they value his leadership above all, I expect they leave him be.
Split decision: Compton is an unrestricted free agent but I believe he deserves an extension. In nine games, he made 39 tackles (25 solo, 14 assisted). Not great, but he is one I can see filling in as a nice rotational player and I hope to see him back.
Split decision: Burfict is another unrestricted free agent and his tenure as a Raider was hosed by the league. In just four games, he made 18 tackles (11 solo, 7 assisted), and one pass defensed. He was a captain and the linebackers unit took a hit when he was suspended. Being good friends with the defensive coordinator may be enough to bring him back. However, being on NFL’s radar could force the Raiders to move on since he might only be a part-time player. High risk for sure, high reward possible.
Moving up: Morrow is a restricted free agent. In 16 games, he racked up 67 tackles (49 solo, 18 assisted, two for losses), with four quarterback hits, two passes defensed, and the sole interception of this group. If anyone deserves of a new contract, it’s Morrow.
Moving up: Lee only got to play in five games. He racked up five tackles, all solo, with one for loss. He is under contract for peanuts and should be around for the 2020 kickoff.
Split decision: Wilber is an unrestricted free agent. In 14 games, he racked up two tackles (one solo, one assisted) with two passes deflected. He could be brought back for cheap as a rotational player that knows the system. It’s 50/50 whether we see him back in Silver and Black.
Ukeme Eligwe saw no action this year but still has the restricted free agent label and may return for camp. Also, Derrick Mocreif was signed to a reserve/future contract. He came from the CFL as a member of the All-Star team with the Rough Riders and should fight for a spot in camp. Kendall Donnerson and Nick Usher are signed for reserve/future contracts and should compete for a roster spot. I also expect Raiders to draft a linebacker or even two.
The linebacker corps need to be addressed. Hopefully some big name falls to Raiders in the draft, or maybe they will address it in later rounds. They can also bring in a solid free agent or two to help. One thing for certain, it needs to be upgraded now. Paul Guenther has made mention of using safeties in this position before, and could do it again. If he plans to use these guys in coverage regularly, that may not be a bad idea.
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