There’s still lots of time before the Las Vegas Raiders take the practice field to commence position battles. That being said, one position to monitor is strongside linebacker.
Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden had the team invest heavily in the linebacker position. The action was more than warranted as the Raiders refused to use draft capital on a linebacker for years. Rolando McClain might’ve discouraged the team from drafting a linebacker early. Instead, Raiders brass went the free agency route. Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton were both brought in the revolutionize the position in Paul Guenther’s defensive scheme.
Raiders: The Investment
In fact, Vincent Bonsignore from the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently shared some insight into what the Raiders did regarding the position. “The Raiders invested $35.7 million in guaranteed money to revamp their linebacker position in free agency, bringing in Cory Littleton from the Los Angeles Rams and Nick Kwiatkoski from the Chicago Bears.” The spots for the new additions are set. Barring injury, Littleton will be in charge of the weak side, and Kwiatkoski will patrol the middle as Bonsignore stated.
What About Strongside?
This leaves the strongside open for the Raiders in 2020. There’s a handful of routes defensive coordinator Paul Guenther could take. Rookie Tanner Muse was a safety in college for the Clemson Tigers. However, he was drafted with the intention of having him convert to linebacker. He has the upside and the size, 6-foot-2 and 229 pounds, to make the change. In a season where expectations might be lofty, it would be a lot to shoulder a rookie with. On a side note, Bonsignore pointed out that Muse has experience with pass coverage, which as fans know all too well has plagued the linebacker corps these past few years.
Go With Experience
A familiar face might be the short-term solution if the Raiders have established Muse is the future. Nicholas Morrow and Marquel Lee are both still with the team though it’s possible we’ve seen the last of both of them. That being said, Morrow still has plenty of upside and Lee’s 2019 was derailed by injuries. Morrow, in particular, could thrive alongside his new teammates. In 2019, he had 73 tackles along with an interception in six starts.
The bigger question will be if Guenther can effectively use the Raiders new linebacker corps. Fans are tired of the defense’s shortcomings with many Guenther apologists pointing to a lack of talent. Guenther now has a plethora of youth and talent for the first time in his tenure. 2020 is shaping up to be an important and pivotal year for Raiders linebackers.
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*Top Photo: Richard Shiro/Associated Press