Raiders

LB Nick Kwiatkoski Will Immediately Improve Raiders Defense

Free agent linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski posted a picture of Allegiant Stadium, essentially telling the world he’s playing for the Las Vegas Raiders.

The transaction was confirmed by numerous reporters hours later, and we learned that Kwiatkoski agreed to a three-year, $21 million deal with $13.5 million guaranteed, making him the first free agent to negotiate a contract with the the Silver and Black since they moved to Las Vegas. Let’s take a look at what Kwiatkoski will bring to the Raiders defense.

Depth at the linebacker position

This is most important. It’s been a long time since the Raiders have had a talented linebacker group, and while they’ve attempted to bring in talent in recent years like NaVorro Bowman, Malcolm Smith and Tahir Whitehead, the group has been subpar at best.

The 27-year old has played in every game over the last two seasons, and started eight games for the Bears in 2019. He’s been able to stay healthy, and most importantly, he provides talent at a position the Raiders desperately needed to upgrade.

Related: We’ll soon find out if QB Tom Brady will join the Raiders

Run defense

Kwiatkoski has been a terrific run-stopper throughout his four-year career. He had 56 solo tackles and 76 total last year, both career-highs. These are very impressive numbers because he had to play behind Danny Trevathan half the season. Assuming he earns a starting spot for Las Vegas, those numbers should increase.

Kwiatkoski has great instincts and he’s almost never caught out-of-position. He actively seeks contact, proven by his 76 tackles in just eight games. He’ll bring a level of intensity and toughness to the Raiders defense, something the team has lacked for a while.

Pass Defense

Kwiatkoski’s pass defense has improved tremendously over his short NFL career. It’s been a ridiculous amount of time since the Raiders have had a player who can shut down an opposing tight end, and the linebacker can do just that, which is very important considering he’ll have to face Travis Kelce and Hunter Henry twice a year. Kwiatkoski has great instincts and the pass he intercepted last year came when he read the quarterback’s eyes and stepped in front of the throw. He did that often last year, but ended up dropping a couple potential interceptions as well, which you can see in the video below.

Kwiatkoski used to play safety, and that’s apparent when you watch him play. He has a high football IQ, and his instincts help him identify screen-passes and step in front of throwing lanes. He has enough athleticism to cover the field.

Nick Kwiatkoski is a tremendous pickup, and I believe it will be one of the best signings in this free agency period, considering he’ll be earning around $7 million per year. He’s a smart player, and his combination of athleticism and toughness make him a valuable player on defense. He will show up in a big way for the Raiders next season.

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