The most overhauled position on the roster this season will be the linebacker position. It is setting up that it will have all new starters across the board. The question is, is that a good thing? Let's see.
2012: Rolando McClain, Philip Wheeler, Miles Burris, Omar Gaither, Keenan Clayton, Travis Goethel, Kaelin Burnett, Carl Ihenacho
2013: Nick Roach, Kevin Burnett, Sio Moore, Miles Burris, Kaluka Maiava, Keenan Clayton, Travis Goethel, Kaelin Burnett, Billy Boyko, Eric Harper
The first big addition to this group was a subtraction - Rolando McClain. He was what teams refer to as a cancer. The moment the team cut back on this tumor in week six of the season, they nearly went on a three-game winning streak. They almost upset the undefeated Falcons, and then beat the Jaguars and Chiefs in consecutive games.
McClain was suspended for the final five games of the season and the team instantly began playing its best defensive football of the season. There are varying factors which came together for the Raiders' defense but the key moment was the day Rolando McClain was no longer on the field.
Replacing McClain is the anti-Ro - Nick Roach. He is intelligent, mature, and comes over from a disciplined Bears team in which he started at middle linebacker in place of future Hall of Famer, Brian Urlacher. He is pretty much everything Rolando was not. This team couldn't ask for much more than that.
It couldn't have been as simple as the team ridding themselves of McClain, though. They also lost their best defensive player in Philip Wheeler, who signed with the Dolphins as a free agent. But with Wheeler's arrival in Miami came the departure of Kevin Burnett and the Raiders swiped up the longtime starter. Burnett may be a downgrade to Wheeler - at least that's what the Dolphins thought - but he is no slouch.
Splitting time with Burnett is another free agent acquisition - Kaluka Maiava. He was a very solid linebacker for the Browns last season who the team pursued as one of their very first free agent acquisitions. The Raiders are hoping between the two of them they can relieve some of the pain of Wheeler's loss.
Coming on strong on the other side is rookie third round pick, Sio Moore. He already looks like an upgrade over last year's starter, Miles Burris, and should the Raiders decide to use some 3-4 sets as they have said they will be implementing from time to time, having both Burris and Moore on the field makes for a very nice looking group of linebackers.
Also, having solid depth at both outside linebacker positions is something the Raiders did not have last season. They go from having to start a fourth round rookie earlier than they would have liked (Miles Burris) alongside a cancer (Rolando McClain) due to a lack of better options. So few options, in fact, that they opted to go with just two linebackers much of the season and had to sign Omar Gaither off the street to replace McClain when he was suspended.
This team came into the off-season with next to nothing at linebacker. Now they have at least five linebackers capable of starting, two of which are upgrades over last season's starters. Big time improvement.