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2011 NFL Free Agency: Oakland Raiders' Thomas Howard is Headed to the Bengals

2011 NFL free agency is where the Bengals go to sign Oakland Raiders. Outside linebacker Thomas Howard will be following Bruce Gradkowski to Cincinnati. ESPN's Adam Schefter broke the news and he reported that it is a two-year deal worth $6.5 million. And that is not a bad deal for a player that was relegated to special teams duty last year.

It is not at all surprising that Howard is leaving the Raiders. He was stripped of his starting job prior to the 2010 season, and never really seemed to even be given consideration to get it back—even though Quentin Groves struggled on the weakside last season. The Raiders coaching staff had pinned the crux of their run defense woes on the linebackers and the smallish Howard was left on the sidelines. Jump over for more....

To his immense credit, Howard never once complained, and he busted his ass on special teams. The Bengals are getting a true professional. The money on the deal would indicate that Howard is going to be given every chance to start and his signings probably signal the end for Dhani Jones and Brandon Johnson.

A player of Howard's character will always be missed in the locker room, but they certainly aren't going to miss him on the field. Howard's days of playing linebacker here were over. I wish him nothing but the best.

The Raiders seem completely content with the linebackers they have. They still need to add some depth, but—barring injury—I think we can pencil iin Kamerion Wimbley, Rolando McClain and Travis Goethel as the starters.

Get all the latest news, info and rumors regarding the Raiders free agents and the players they are targeting.

9.14 Chargers @ Raiders Back-Back hits by Thomas Howard.flv (via tatum46077)