On the second day in the 2020 NFL free agency tampering period, the Las Vegas Raiders have agreed to terms with their third signee. Former Rams linebacker Cory Littleton joins the Raiders and offers the perfect skill set for the position.
Cory Littleton is the Pillar the Raiders Defense Needs
Losing out on top free agent cornerback Byron Jones didn’t stop the Raiders from pursuing another of the best players available. On Tuesday, the Silver and Black reached an agreement with Pro Football Focus’ 14th best overall linebacker in 2019, Cory Littleton.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 17, 2020
The top ranked linebacker in free agency is heading to Las Vegas with a prudent contract that averages less than $12 million per year over the next three seasons. His price tag is as sound as his play was in Los Angeles last year.
What He Brings To The Raiders
The 26-year old Littleton is coming into his own as a premier pass defender in a league where throwing the ball seeks to be the king. As a former undrafted free agent, he started his career as a special teamer for the first two years of his career before he carved a niche as one of the league’s best players in pass coverage at the second level.
Cory Littleton in 2019:
-78.9 overall grade (7th among all LBs)
-91.6 tackling grade (1st)
-82.3 coverage grade (8th)
-9 combined INTs/PBUs (tied for 4th most)
— PFF Las Vegas Raiders (@PFF_Raiders) March 17, 2020
While he dominated the middle of the field last season with his athleticism, it is hard to fathom why he became a free agent. As you can see below, the Rams loss will quickly turn into the Raiders gain.
Littleton’s forte is his prowess to shadow opposing players; a highly coveted facet with the caliber of running backs and tight ends that are currently present in the AFC West. While his coverage skills are second to none, his soundness as an open field tackler makes him a complete linebacker.
This was a fun play design from the #Cowboys. Going off their earlier looks in the game from this formation, motion, and run action.
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) December 17, 2019
Littleton topped the league in tackle efficiency (91.6%) per Pro Football Focus in 2019. Combined with his coverage skills, he’s one of the most complete defenders in the whole league.
New Raiders LB Cory Littleton has been among the best run-and-chase defenders in the NFL over the last two seasons, accumulating 29 hustle stops, tied for 2nd-most in the NFL behind only Luke Kuechly (30).
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) March 17, 2020
A Good Start
The Raiders have jumped to a fantastic start in free agency on the defensive side of the ball by spending with calculated tact and efficiency. Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton make for a strong duo that will provide athleticism, knowledge and talent to the NFL’s most barren linebacker corps. As it stands now, Kwiatkoski will presumably assume the middle position while Littleton has the versatility to assume either outside linebacker role.
One other note on @Raiders and Nick Kwiatkoski: They've been looking for a true leader of the their defense for awhile, someone who can diagnose, make the defensive calls, get guys lined up correctly, communicate. Sense is they finally got that guy.
— Vincent Bonsignore (@VinnyBonsignore) March 16, 2020
The pair will complement each other well, and will be the heart and soul of a revamped 2020 Raider defense that is not finished acquiring talent in free agency.
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