For what it's worth, this will be an ongoing series of what I think needs to happen, or what I think will happen. For what I think needs to happen, I will obviously put out who, what and when I see as the best moves that are available at the time; for what I think will happen, it will be what I see as the moves that the Raiders will make, although I may or may not agree with them. So, let's get started with this installment, linebacker...
The play from this position was much steadier than the last few years, which served to feature a see-saw of effort and production. As with so many positions on the defense, injuries took their toll as well, in this case meaning that the starters were basically three-down players, ready or not. It wasn't that guys wore down over the season, but that they might not have been in circumstances that best fit their capabilities.
Kaelin Burnett: Basically a special teams guy, he is a free agent that the team may or may not bring back. If so, I would think that it is more of a move to keep his brother happy, although it may be because they know what they do, and do not, have. Sometimes you stay with what you know rather than roll the dice, but someone new earning his spot wouldn't be a surprise either.
Kevin Burnett: Played very well early,but seemed to tail off towards the end of the season. Perhaps he is starting to show some age, or maybe it was mental fatigue from some fans see: turnover, injuries, turmoil, and the expectations and frustrations of the fan base. I expect that he will see some competition next season, from a low- to mid-level free agent and/or a drafted player. That should only improve his position, which I would expect he will hold onto.
Burris: A player many cheered last year, he came back from injury to find his position filled. Did he come back before his body was ready? I don't know for sure, but when I saw him play, he seemed to be a step slower. We'll see how he looks in OTA's and camp, but he is a backup now.
McFadden: Strictly roster fodder; I doubt he will make it through camp.
Moore: Showed a noticeable progression from the beginning of the season to the end. Needs to show more (heh) as a pass rusher; he seemed as though he was more subdued after he was body-slammed against San Diego. He needs to find that 'urgency' again, although his overall play improved. He is one to watch, because he could definitely turn out to be a very good player.
Maiava: Injured for much of the season, he looked okay before he got hurt. Not great, not terrible, just okay. He is still under contract, but as I expect a number of players to be brought in at this position, he will need to stay healthy to earn and keep his roster spot.
Roach: Solid play for most of the season, with a few clunkers mixed in. A definite upgrade from the last few years, but not enough to cement himself as an unquestioned starter; steady, not outstanding. I would expect that he will see some low-level competition, but the I see 2015 as the year that we go hard after upgrades at MLB, unless he has completely taken over the position with top-notch play. I'm not down on Roach, he brings a nice skill set, and I certainly appreciate that he is much more effective than McClain ever was, but every top defense has not only some vicious safety play, but a thumper in the middle; as yet, Roach is not that thumper.
Cole: Another reserve/futures signing; looks to be a journeyman at best, but more of just an emergency depth guy. I don't see him becoming a factor.
Harper: Another reserve/futures contract signing; an older player coming out of college, probably not going to stick, but he does seem to have some versatility. Not going to get any hopes up at this time.
A fairly solid, useful set of starters that doesn't yet have a standout player, and some unproven, somewhat vanilla backups. I expect that OLB will be looked at more than MLB this year, in order to create more pressure with some added DE's (draft/FA). I would expect competition at MLB the year after, though. The other option would be at least one solid player at both inside and outside positions, which would also allow for the option of playing some 3-4. We'll see, but I would prefer to focus on the outside first, as the inside, while steady more than truly settled, is not an integral part of pressuring the QB.