With the signing of former Rams linebacker Cory Littleton, the Las Vegas Raiders continue to build their linebacker corps. In consecutive days, the Raiders turned a perennial weakness into a possible strength. Now, with free agency underway, how will this signing affect the rest of the plan for the Raiders? First, a few particulars.
Littleton agreed to a three-year deal, worth up to 36 million. That agreement contains a base value of 11.75 million per season. In the big scope, for what Littleton brings to the table, Gruden and Mayock made a financially sound deal. Earlier, reports surfaced that Littleton preferred something in the 16-million dollar range. However, as we all know, free agency is the start of Lying Season. That is to say, teams and certain media will float wholly unrealistic numbers for fan consumption. When Littleton’s pen hits the paper, the Raiders filled a major void with little cash.
For over a decade, the Raiders, whether in Oakland or Vegas, lacked a linebacker with any semblance of coverage skill. As a result, opposing tight ends, of varied acclaim and talent, routinely torched the Silver and Black. In Littleton, the team expects a twitchy, nimble linebacker, with the ability to stay stride for stride with tight ends. Also, with his nose for the ball, expect Littleton to step in front of passes. In 37 starts, Littleton tallied six interceptions and twenty-six passes defensed.
Travis Kelce, Hunter Henry, and Noah Fant call the AFC West home. Littleton needs to provide some opposition, stopping them, allowing the pass rush to at least become a consistent factor. On a visceral level, how many of you are tired of watching Kelce dance in the end zone after scoring a touchdown versus the Raiders. Seemingly, every year, with ease, he abuses the defense. Now, the Raiders, due to Littleton, have a puncher’s chance.
Paul Guenther, with every defensive addition, runs out of excuses. Additionally, Cory Littleton brings the Raiders a playmaker that Guenther can honestly say that he hasn’t coached at linebacker. With that, and Rod Marinelli lurking, look for the heat on the coordinator’s seat to mount.
In years past, the Raiders aimed to win free agency. Names like Javon Walker and Gibril Wilson litter the atrocious days of big-money deals for this franchise. Instead, Mayock borrowed a page from the Reggie McKenzie book of the patient approach. In return, the Las Vegas Raiders set themselves up to add to their ever-changing roster.