This is the first of my grades of the off-season moves for each position group for the Raiders. I am starting with the defense because that's where most of the focus occurred for the Raiders this off-season.
Linebacker was in a state of flux last off-season. It is even moreso this off-season. What started out looking like an area the team could build upon, turned out to be another year of overhaul. By the end of last season, every linebacker position had a different starter from the year before. That could very well happen again this season.
My one disclaimer here is to consider these are not necessarily grades of how good the position is for the Raiders but merely grading the movements (or lack of) the team made with regard to options, upgrades/downgrades, and departures vs additions.
Rolando McClain - He is still technically on the roster but that's only because there is no rush to cut him. For all intents and purposes, he was no longer part of this team prior to week 12 of last season when he was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. They will make him a June 1st cut. He carries a lot of dead money but that is far better than the dead weight he represents being on the roster.
Philip Wheeler - He received an offer he couldn't refuse from the Dolphins and took it and ran. The Raiders tried hard to re-sign him but in the end had to think about saving what little money they had to try and fill multiple positions. This is still a big loss as he was the leading tackler for the Raiders last season as the best signing last year.
Unsigned free agents: UFA Omar Gaither
Kaluka Maiava -- This move has been lauded by Pro Football Focus as one of their favorite off-season moves. He is also not a temporary answer either, as he is one of the few multiyear deals -- 3-years, $6 million. If he can prove to be a find the way Philip Wheeler was last year, the Raiders won't have to worry about losing him after one year of service like Wheeler.
Nick Roach -- The team's prize signing this free agent period. He received the biggest contract of all their free agent signings -- 4-year, $13 million - and deservedly so. He had a breakout season last year for the Bears' tough defense. He stepped in for injured Brian Urlacher and played very well. The Raiders see him as being the player Rolando McClain was supposed to be at the middle linebacker position. Signing a middle linebacker as a free agent was a far better choice than drafting one for this rudderless Raiders' defense.
Kevin Burnett -- When the Dolphins signed Philip Wheeler, they cut Kevin Burnett. The Raiders then swooped in and grabbed him. He was happy to get the call from the Raiders where he could join his little brother, Kaelin, and former head coach, Tony Sporano. The 30-year old linebacker received a 2-year $5.25 million contract which is just about right for his services and certainly a lot cheaper than what the Dolphins paid Wheeler.
Re-signed Free Agents: ERFA Kaelin Burnett
Breakdown: Philip Wheeler's departure is a big one. On the flip side, filling the middle linebacker void is also a big one. This group has the potential to be better than last year's but that remains to be seen. The ideal scenario would have been to keep Wheeler and build around him, although that may not have been possible.
Linebacker grade: B+