The only position at which Raiders' cupboard was more bare than linebacker coming into free agency was cornerback. And with the recent signings of Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer, the Raiders are far more comfortable there. Now the attention will turn to linebackers. And the field couldn't be more ripe for the picking.
There has been almost no activity on the linebacker signing front thus far and free agency is now a week old. As things tend to go, there are runs on certain positions. The wide receivers came flying off the board on the first day of free agency for instance. Much of the activity in the past couple days has come at the cornerback position with the Raiders getting in on the act.
The need at linebacker for the Raiders is great. The team cut strong side LB Kamerion Wimbley to dump his massive salary cap hit of $11 million. They also are not expected to sign back OLB Quentin Groves and lost DE/OLB Trevor Scott to the Patriots.
With Wimbley expected to sign a contract with the Titans on Tuesday, he could start the run on linebackers. When it starts, linebackers will start flying off the market and the Raiders will hope to get in on some of the action.
The team will need at minimum six linebackers and as many as eight. They currently have three returning-Rolando McClain, Travis Goethel, and Aaron Curry. That means they need a minimum of three acquisitions to the unit. With the 3-4 base, two of those newcomers should be starting caliber-an inside linebacker and an outside linebacker.
Luckily for the Raiders, there is a great many fine options still on the market at linebacker. Here are the best available:
ILB London Fletcher (WAS)
ILB Curtis Lofton (ATL)
Stephen Tulloch (DET) -- Re-signed with the Lions
ILB David Hawthorne (SEA)
ILB Erin Henderson (MIN)
OLB Manny Lawson (CIN)
ILB Jameel McClain (BAL)
OLB Philip Wheeler (IND)
ILB EJ Henderson (MIN)
OLB Leroy Hill (SEA)
ILB Jonathan Goff (NYG)
ILB Bradie James (DAL)
OLB Matt Roth (CLE)
ILB Chase Blackburn (NYG)
Of these players, Manny Lawson is the closest to a perfect fit for the Raiders. He could step into the strong side linebacker position, replacing Wimbley easily. He is known for his strength in run defense which is exactly what the Raiders need. He also has experience in the 3-4 and played under Raiders' defensive coordinator Jason Tarver while with the 49ers.
At inside linebacker, Jameel McClain seems the most likely. He's young and yet has a lot of starting experience on the solid Ravens defense. He would either take a leadership role or at very least bring with him the swagger that he and he and Ray Lewis played with in Baltimore.
But there are a great many solid additions to be had among this group. Let the games begin.
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