My first choice for the Raiders need at linebacker would’ve been Anthony Barr. His size, speed and age would’ve made him a great marquee addition.
Sure, there’s an argument that Barr left much to be desired in pass coverage. There is also merit to the claim he should’ve always been in a 3-4 defense. However, he did play most of his career in a defense very similar to the Raiders. Barr would’ve been tough to stop as a blitzing linebacker in the Raiders scheme. He had 55 tackles and three sacks last year at age 26. Yet, Barr stayed in Minnesota..
After that, I also liked Denzel Perryman for a low risk, high-reward free agent for the Raiders. Why not steal from a division rival and gain some intel? Especially when that includes signing a 26-year-old linebacker with multiple years, starting in the NFL as both a 4-3 and 3-4 linebacker. Unfortunately, he re-signed for a two-year, $12 million extension.
Nonetheless, there are other targets the Raiders should consider.
Tier One: The Big Fish
The Raiders are probably past this stage given they already splurged so early in free agency. Unless they make some cuts, I’m not sure what they could offer the top guys at this position.
Then, there is Littleton whose breakout season helped the Rams secure a Super Bowl appearance. He made a name for himself as a special teamer but last year he broke onto the scene with 125 tackles, four sacks and three interceptions in his first full season as a starter. Littleton will also be valuable for his experience in multiple schemes with the Rams. Littleton is 25 and doesn’t have the same resume as others in the category, but he doesn’t have injury concerns. Still, is he worth a big contract after one big year? The Raiders will probably sit this one out.
Tier Two: The Underrated Guys
Now, we meet the more realistic options for the Raiders. Think back to the past few seasons. The Raiders usually wait until late to sign a middle linebacker. It is usually someone older and overlooked. Moreover, they’re a bargain.
Wright is almost 30 and only played five games last year. However, he does have a Super Bowl ring and experience playing multiple linebacker spots. If healthy, Wright can be a worthy gamble for the Raiders. He’s had over 100 tackles from 2014-17. For the Silver and Black, Wright would be a sizeable upgrade over what they have at the position. Even if he is declining, he’d also be a great leader.
cheap in Silver and Black. Of course, Collins isn’t where he needs to be in coverage, but at the right price he makes sense for the Raiders.
Tier Three: Everyone Else
Brandon Marshall, recently cut from Denver, also has Super Bowl experience. He knows the AFC West well and has played in multiple defenses. Of course, he saw his playing time decline with his coverage skills so the Raiders will probably pass.
Vincent Ray, once a starter and now a special teamer, makes sense if Paul Guenther wants a linebacker who knows him and his scheme. However, is this even an upgrade?
Kyle Emanuel, another division player, is on the right side of age and also has a ton of experience. Nonetheless, he hasn’t been super productive before this season and the Chargers will probably keep him.
Preston Brown is a name you might recognize from last year’s free agency. Brown linked up with the Bengals and had his worse season. Maybe he wants to try his luck in a different version of the Bengals defense but even so he would have to be cheap for the Raiders to pursue him again.
Finally, there is Mark Barron, who was hurt for most of the Rams Super Bowl run. Even when he did play there was talk about his decline. Deone Bucannon also had a down year last year. Both under-thirty linebackers started their career as safeties before making careers as middle linebackers. Their speed makes them good blitzers and their decent in the run. However, I’m not sure if they fit what the Raiders are looking for.
Of course, this is a new Raiders regime so who knows. Either way, they probably will need a bargain at linebacker. They’re best off hitting that second tier of linebackers to fill their need for leadership, versatility and a cap-friendly deal. Oakland could also make more cap room to make an addition of another marquee free agent more feasible.
Either way, their roster has a major whole at all three positions. The Raiders will probably need to add a linebacker both in free agency and the NFL Draft.