Las Vegas Raiders

Should Raiders Address LB Via Free Agency or the Draft?

If the Las Vegas Raiders expect to make any noise in 2020, something has to be done to improve the linebacker position.

The Raiders have to make up their mind and decide which route to take to revamp their linebacker corps as free agency is around the corner. We will soon see how much stock head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock put into the unit. The Vontaze Burfict era came and went in a whimper. We clearly saw Tahir Whitehead isn’t the long-term answer, so now what?

Cory Littleton is arguably the top linebacker free agent, yet, I’d be hard-pressed to believe Mayock would spend top dollar for him. All things considered, the Raiders have signed short-term stop gap solutions for linebacker, will this year be any different? Again, it depends on the position’s value and in order to avoid spending big money this offseason, the draft could certainly help.

Invest in the Future

One scenario, as far as the draft, might be the Raiders choosing either Kenneth Murray and Isaiah Simmons, who is quickly rising but may not be there when Las Vegas first picks at 12. Murray, on the other hand, could still be available and would be an upgrade over what the Raiders have had the last couple of years. Also, the organization could take a chance on boosting their linebacker group without breaking the bank.

Related: Should Raiders Add TE Jimmy Graham?

Speaking of money, they could draft Murray at 12 or 19 and reload via free agency. There’ll be plenty of players Las Vegas could look at to add quality veteran depth.

Free Agency Then?

If the Raiders are serious about finding a linebacker to lead this defense with the “green dot”, they’ll then draft one. Do that and sign one of the following players:

Blake Martinez, 6’2″, 237 lbs, 26-years-old

The Stanford alumnus could be the upgrade the Raiders need. Last season, he had an impressive stat line of 114 tackles, three sacks, and an interception. In his young career, he’s been relatively healthy, starting 57 of 61 games since 2016. If you’re looking for further validation, Martinez has 512 total career tackles in his four years in the NFL.

De’Vondre Campbell, 6’4″, 232 lbs, 26-years-old

The soon-to-be ex-Atlanta Falcon was a tackling machine in 2019, when he totaled 129. He also caused three forced fumbles last year. In his career, he’s had 11 quarterback hits. Campbell could also be used in blitzing situations as he was brought in to blitz the passer 65 times last year.

Verdict

If the Raiders truly want their defense to take the next step in 2020, they cannot take linebacker for granted again. In this hypothetical, the best route might be to draft Murray and sign a quality veteran as an insurance policy. Perhaps bring Murray along slowly before throwing him out there. Typically, fans want first round picks to come in and be instant impact players. That’s a fair stance but not always the case as we saw with Clelin Ferrell in 2019. His numbers didn’t exactly stand out, but Mayock and Gruden believe in what they’re building long-term. At this point, Raider Nation is just tired of the position being overlooked year in and out.

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