Tahir Whitehead owns a chiseled granite physique. The Raiders linebacker is built like a Spartan who rushed the Persian army during the The Battle of Thermopylae. But just like those brave Spartans who were eventually overwhelmed by a superior force, so is Whitehead. Despite going over the 100-tackle mark (108 total, 79 solo, 29 combined) for the fourth-straight season, the 29-year-old linebacker (30 in April) showed little else in terms of sacks, forced fumbles (zero in both categories) and was a liability in pass coverage.
Since coming to Oakland as a free agent from the Detroit Lions, Whitehead played in 90-percent of the snaps on defense (nearly 100 percent in 2018 and just over 90 percent in 2019), and Raiders head honcho Jon Gruden even defended Whitehead during postgame and mid-week pressers when media members brought up metrics and grades questioning No. 59’s performance.
“30-for-30. Sounds like a television show or something,” Gruden quipped when told of Pro Football Focus stating Whitehead was the lone linebacker to allow a perfect completion rate midway through the 2019 season. “You know what, he’s been a good linebacker. He’s been a good nickel linebacker in the league for a long time. I think when you look at the kind of throws that have been complete, you have to sometimes take a look at them. Are they quick screens?
Are they screen passes?”
However, raw numbers aren’t flattering for the veteran linebacker.
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Run defense and tackling. Whitehead is a willing tackler who loves to get his nose dirty in the trenches to stymie the run game. His 6-foot-2, 241-pound well-built frame allows him to sustain the traffic hazards known as the oppositions run game. According to ProFooballReference.com, Whitehead missed only five of his tackles in 2019.
Pass coverage. This is the area that exposes his deficient speed and agility. ProFootballReference charted Whitehead for 65 targets and the opposition connected on 51 of said throws — for a staggering 78.5 percent completion rate — for 687 yards and six touchdowns. QBs sported a 141.5 rating when targeting Whitehead.
3-year, $19 million (signed in 2018)
$5.95 million base salary in 2019, $1.04+ million bonus, $200K roster bonus and $100K workout bonus (per OverTheCap.com)
$6.25 million cap savings if cut, but $1.04+ million dead cap (bonus)
Punt. While having veteran leadership at position groups are always important, the Raiders need some new blood at a position long ignored. At his cost and savings, waxing Whitehead allows the team to bring in new talent at the position. Based on his pass coverage performance (or lack thereof) alone requires a pay cut or outright release.