Ahh, July has come. It's the time of the year where teams release veteran players to whom they've promised way too much money. Oakland doesn't have any players like that, but a lot of other teams do and you're going to see scores of them cut in the next few weeks. One of the first names we have to consider this year is veteran middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who was released by the Lions after months of contract limbo.
Tulloch has been a very solid linebacker since he was drafted in 2006 out of NC State. However, in a game against the Packers in 2014 he sacked Aaron Rodgers and celebrated the sack, tearing his ACL in the process (reminding us all of our favorite former defensive end Lamarr Houston and idiot kicker Bill Gramatica before him). Since his return from the ACL tear, his lateral mobility and coverage skills have dropped off, but his tackling is as sure as ever- he led the Lions with 128 tackles in 2015.
The one real weak spot on the Raiders' roster on paper is middle linebacker. They currently have Ben Heeney, rookie Cory James and a bunch of outside linebackers who can shift inside in a pinch like Malcolm Smith and Neiron Ball. The Raiders simply do not have a thumping veteran middle linebacker who can plug the holes and stuff the run behind the defensive tackles.
I know what you're saying right now: "That sounds great, RDreamer, and your writing is nothing if not top-notch, but isn't this just Curtis Lofton 2.0?" And I would say to you that on the surface they might seem similar except for the fact that everyone knows Tulloch can't cover and should never under any circumstances be asked to do so. He's a pure two-down run-stopper at this point.
Also, last year the Raiders did not have Bruce Irvin and did not have Neiron Ball for a large chunk of the season. The team as presently constructed will more effectively be able to utilize a linebacker with Tulloch's skill set. He would be invaluable against the CJ Andersons and LeVeon Bells of the league, and the Raiders' linebacking corps is in sore need of a veteran leader and middle linebacker depth. Tulloch could be just the sort of guy a contender should look at to fill a specific role on their roster on the cheap.