Last off-season, the Dolphins signed Raiders linebacker Philip Wheeler to a big contract which ushered out former starter, Kevin Burnett. The Raiders in turn grabbed Burnett to fill the hole left by Wheeler's departure. Now after just one season in Oakland, Burnett's spot on the Raiders' roster is very much in doubt.
As a veteran linebacker, Burnett is fairly limited. He was not a starter his first five seasons in the league in Dallas and has been started full seasons the last four in San Diego, Miami, and Oakland. Three teams in five years tells you that those teams either see him as a stopgap or quickly begin searching for an upgrade.
In a 4-3 defense, he is seen as a weak side linebacker solely. Knowing that, the Raiders moved Sio Moore - a college weak side linebacker - to the strong side. Now, with the addition of Khalil Mack as the fifth overall pick, Moore was moved back to the weak side, bringing Burnett's place on the defense in question.
Further complicating things is the re-emergence of 2012 starter Miles Burris - also a weak side linebacker. Burris took first team reps in minicamp ahead of Moore due to Burris being ahead of the curve in knowing his assignments. That leaves a pretty strong competition between Burris and Moore for the starting job.
While all of this is going on, Burnett has been out with an ankle injury. He didn't attend the team's first week of OTA practices and head coach Dennis Allen at the time was not aware of any injury saying; "He's healthy, he's just not here."
The 31-year old veteran linebacker showed up for the second OTA and worked on the side with trainers for the remainder of off-season practices.
In his last two previous stops, Burnett was a full-time starter and he moved onto each stop with designs on being a starter. He is facing the very real possibility that he could be a backup if he stays in Oakland and that may not sit well with him.
Burnett's feelings aside, it may not sit well with the Raiders either. First of all, he is not paid backup numbers. He signed a 2-year, $5.25 million contract before last season which carries a 2014 $3.375 million base salary and a $4.142 million salary cap figure. That's the eighth highest salary on the team.
Adding to his reduced value as a backup is the fact that he doesn't play on special teams. Most backup linebackers are expected to play special teams.
Basically what we're looking at is an expensive, aging veteran competing against young players who the Raiders see as the long term answer. Ask yourself who among fifth overall pick Khalil Mack, former starter Miles Burris, reigning All-Rookie first teamer Sio Moore, and team Defensive MVP Nick Roach could Burnett supplant as the starter? Your answer is probably not unlike mine -- none of them.
So, his prospects of winning a job are slim and his prospects of remaining on the team as a backup are equally if not more slim.
Dennis Allen said after the final OTA that he expects to see Kevin Burnett at training camp competing for a job. But at this point Burnett's best bet is to either stick around in case there is an injury or seek a trade or release to find a team in need of his services as a starter. He still has something to offer as an NFL linebacker. It just might not be in Oakland.