You have to go back a while to find a time when the Raiders had a reliable middle linebacker. At least 2009 when Kirk Morrison was still manning the middle. But even then, the Raiders were not content and in the 2010 draft, they made Rolando McClain their pick at 8th overall, so you'd probably have to go back even farther than 2009.
Since then it's been failure after failure -- McClain chief among them. When the Raiders finally gave up on that problem child during the 2012 season, they've had a different player starting each season.
First it was Philip Wheeler who stepped in midseason for McClain, but Wheeler left as a free agent after one season. Then they signed free agent Nick Roach but he was lost to concussion after one season. Miles Burris filled in for Roach but he was never a true middle linebacker. They then attempted to fill the spot last season with Curtis Lofton who had been cut by the Saints. That didn't work out either and he was benched by midseason.
Could the Raiders look to free agency again? They should. And they have plenty of cash to do it. Here are the top inside linebackers they could target:
Danny Trevathan, Broncos
Trevathan was drafted in the 6th round of the 2012 draft. He has a nose for the football. The dude has made some game changing plays over the years (biggest play of note was the Interception of Tony Romo that won the game back in 2013).
They (Trevathan and Brandon Marshall) are both stellar linebackers who can do it all: pass coverage and run stuffing. They have been used as WLB and MLB at different times in the 4-3 and this year have looked downright awesome as ILBs in the Broncos' one gap 3 - 4 scheme. Their lateral quickness is THE biggest plus they bring to the table. It really limits the horizontal play of most teams. They both read and diagnose plays well too and don't often get caught biting too bad on misdirection plays. - Michael Sadaraine, Mile High Report
In 2014, under Jack Del Rio, Trevathan was a tackling machine. He had 152 tackles (105 solo) that season. It was just his second season in the NFL since becoming the Broncos' sixth round pick in 2012. Del Rio himself was a linebacker, and in the Broncos' first draft with him as Defensive Coordinator, Trevathan was the only linebacker selected.
He was injured most of 2014, but returned to start 15 games at inside linebacker for the eventual Super Bowl Champion Broncos. He had 109 tackles (73 solo) in the regular season and added 22 more (16 solo) in three playoff wins including 8 combined tackles and two fumble recoveries in a dominating defensive performance in Denver's win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. For that reason, he will be in high demand.
Jerrell Freeman, Colts
Freeman has been the Colts' starting inside linebacker for the past four seasons, starting 57 games and recording 478 tackles, 12 sacks, 16 passes defensed, four interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), eight forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries.
He's started ever since the team signed him as a free agent out of the Canadian Football League in 2012, and he has been a very underrated signing by general manager Ryan Grigson. Freeman was a very solid player in his first two seasons, racking up a number of tackles and providing the Colts with average to above-average play.
Then in 2014, Freeman had a down year and really struggled in run defense, though he played well in coverage. Last season, however, Freeman saw a huge bounce-back year and was tremendous all-around. He does a good job in coverage and, in 2015, played very well in run defense as well. The key with Freeman is getting that consistency, which wasn't a problem in 2015 but was in the three years before that. - Josh Wilson, Stampede Blue
Freeman is a wild card as far as the Raiders are concerned. He is approaching 30, which means he is approaching the downside of his career. He will get a good deal somewhere and perhaps it will be to return to the Colts. Even with the inconsistencies he has had stopping the run much of his career, he is among the top free agent inside linebackers on the market and would be an upgrade for the Raiders.
This kind of reminds me of Philip Wheeler, the former Colts linebacker who the Raiders signed in 2012. The Raiders were cash strapped that year so they were only able to get him on a one-year deal. Wheeler had a tremendous season, taking the play calling duties away from Rolando McClain. That season for the Raiders earned Wheeler a huge contract with the Miami Dolphins after that.
Derrick Johnson, Chiefs
Derrick Johnson: Like Berry, it's just hard for me to see him playing elsewhere. He had a great season. For his age and coming off that Achilles injury, it was a really impressive season. He has at least a couple more years of high quality football remaining. He's a lifelong Chief after he was Dick Vermeil's 2005 first round pick. He said after the season that he's a Chief. I expect the Chiefs to find a way to bring him back. - Joel Thorman, Arrowhead Pride
Johnson has spent his entire 11-year career in Kansas City since being chosen 15th overall in the 2005 draft. And I agree with Joel that I expect him to return. The Chiefs are still a contender and he is in a good place to finish his career. But we will work on the possibility he hits free agency.
He has made the Pro Bowl four of the past five seasons, including last season at the age of 33. Talentwise, he is the top free agent inside linebacker out there. But being that he probably only has a two-year contract left in him at most is what keeps him from being as sought after.
He can clearly still play and being that the Raiders will continue to focus on improving through the draft, they could sign him short term and buy some time to find a long term solution. They could certainly do worse than an aging current Pro Bowler who would provide veteran leadership and still has some gas left in the tank.