Oakland Raiders linebacker Travis Goethel at training camp 2011 (photo by Levi Damien)
As soon as Rolando McClain was found guilty of all four charges against him in court in Alabama, the Raiders were faced with the reality that they would need to replace him as the team's middle linebacker. They could either attempt to stay in house for his replacement or they could look for a free agent to bring in.
If they go in-house, the top candidate is Travis Goethel. He was set to be the team's backup middle linebacker last year before he went down in preseason with a season ending knee injury. He was also running as the first team middle linebacker in OTA practice last week while McClain was dealing with his legal situation.
Goethel's injury last year was not his first. He went down with an injury to start his rookie season as well. At that time, he was seen as a guy who was to see significant playing time at outside linebacker as well as the primary backup to McClain.
This injury history in Goethel's short career, must leave the Raiders ill at ease about the possibility of going into the season with him as their primary starter. Aside from that, the team would need a backup at the position regardless.
The next middle linebacker on the depth chart is rookie seventh round pick, Nathan Stupar. Not only is he a rookie but he is making a transition from outside to inside linebacker. If Goethel is injured again, it would be a lot to ask of him to run the Raiders' defense as a rookie.
The next choice is another rookie in round four pick, Miles Burris. He played every linebacker position in the San Diego State 3-3-5 defensive scheme. He is considered a very smart player and could probably do a decent job if called upon. But the team would like to have his services at outside linebacker. His motor and pass rushing skills would be of great value on the outside.
After that, it is Philip Wheeler and Aaron Curry. Neither of them would be ideal choices for the middle linebacker spot. Wheeler was brought in specifically to replace Kamerion Wimbley at outside linebacker and Curry has been tried at middle linebacker and failed miserably. He just doesn't have the football intelligence necessary to handle the position. His skill set is far better suited at weakside linebacker.
This is to say nothing of the times in which the Raiders run a 3-4 defense. In that case, they will need even more linebackers. The good thing is that the responsibilities in the middle won't fall on one guy so it opens up the possibilities there.
But regardless of 4-3 or 3-4, the loss of Rolando McClain means that the Raiders could find themselves in the market to add a middle linebacker in free agency.