On this exact date three years ago, Philip Wheeler officially signed a one-year contract with the Oakland Raiders. A lot has happened between then and now. It has led to today as the free agent linebacker returned to the Bay Area to visit the 49ers. This according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport. It is his first football trip to the Bay Area since he signed with the Dolphins two years ago.
When the Raiders signed Wheeler, he was a young free agent from Indianapolis looking to sign on with a team as a starter and prove he was worthy. He found the perfect landing spot in Oakland with a team starting a rebuild with very little money to spend in free agency and a lot of needs to fill.
He came in as the team's starting strong side linebacker. Then four games into the season, Rolando McClain wasn't cutting it at middle linebacker and was stripped of his playcalling duties. Those duties were handed to Wheeler and McClain saw his snaps cut in half.
The defense was instantly improved and Wheeler was arguably the best player on the defense, if not definitely in the top two. That offseason, the Dolphins came calling and gave him a nice contract. He came in and the team cut Kevin Burnett, who the Raiders then signed to start for them. So, essentially they swapped linebackers in much the same way they did centers a few years ago when the Dolphins signed Jake Grove and cut Samson Satele who then signed with the Raiders.
This offseason, the Dolphins free agent plans again affected the Raiders and again affected Wheeler. But this time, Wheeler was on the other end of things. The Dolphins won the Ndamukong Suh sweepstakes by giving him an insane contract with some $60 million guaranteed. The aftermath was Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe -- the other linebacker signed two years ago -- were both let go.
Wheeler was a much better fit in Oakland than he was in Miami. He did what he should have done and cash in on his success, as the Raiders were still a year from being able to pay him what he had earned. Now the Raiders are in pretty good shape at linebacker with Khalil Mack, Sio Moore, Curtis Lofton, and Malcolm Smith.
The 49ers on the other hand are in a shambles with two linebackers who unexpectedly retired this offseason -- 30-year-old Patrick Willis and 24-year-old Chris Borland. Wheeler could find himself a starter again across the bay for a team in a similar situation as the Raiders were when he signed with them exactly three years ago today.