There is a good chance Rolando McClain will be out all of the 2012 season and an equally good chance, the Raiders will cut ties with him altogether. This means at very least the team needs to bridge the gap until next year's draft or free agent period when they can either find a starter or solidify the middle linebacker position.
Reggie McKenzie has brought in quite a few players at other positions on one year deals to get the team by until he can build for the future through the draft. Wheeler is one of those players who was brought in on a one-year deal along with several defensive backs.
It would make a lot of sense for him to do the same with the middle linebacker position. Simply sign a free agent who could give the team at least one good season just to make sure they can get through 2012.
The possibility of signing a free agent goes up when the Raiders receive cap relief from the expected suspension as well as possible voiding of McClain's contract should it have conduct clauses in it.
There are still some names out there in the free agent market. Here are a few possible signees:
EJ Henderson- By far the best middle linebacker on the market. It is surprising he is still available. He has started at linebacker for the Vikings since 2004 and was a Pro Bowler in 2010. The longer he is out there, the lower his price tag. He is 31 years old.
Gary Brackett- Started nearly every game at middle linebacker for the Colts from 2005-2010. He played just one game last season and his absence certainly contributed to how poorly the Colts defense was last season. He could team up with his former linebacker mate, Wheeler. Brackett is 31 years old.
Keith Brooking- Has some experience at middle linebacker-- playing four seasons there for the Falcons. Two of those seasons, he was a Pro Bowler. But he hasn't played the position since 2007 and is now 36 years old. He started just three games last season. Could be an ideal stopgap middle linebacker. Or his career could be over.
Omar Gaither- Has only played one season at middle linebacker in his career, totaling 102 total tackles for an the Eagles 2007 team which has a top ten ranked run defense. That was also the only time Gaither has ever started an entire season. He has seen his games played and starts dwindle every season since.
Mike Peterson- Has a great deal of experience at middle linebacker. But at nearly 36 years old, his numbers began tailing off in 2010 and he lost his starting job last season. He may not have anything left in the tank.
Andra Davis- He started nearly every game for the Browns in six seasons from 2003-08. The first two seasons he played middle linebacker and then played inside linebacker when they switched to the 3-4. He has started just 7 games over the past two seasons in Buffalo but at 33 years old he could have something left in the tank.
Stephen Cooper- The Chargers placed Cooper on IR with an injured bicep and later released him. He had some great seasons of his nine seasons at inside linebacker for the Chargers.
James Farrior- Speaking of over the hill linebackers, Farrior is the oldest of the bunch at 37. He also has no experience at middle linebacker. He has been an inside linebacker most of his career for the Steelers. He had a procuctive season last year but at 37, his career is probably over.