What a situation the Raiders find themselves at the middle linebacker spot. There is no clear favorite for the job and a grand total of 5 games experience at the position on the current roster.
Those games belong to Ben Heeney and Cory James who each got two starts early last season. The other two linebacker who could be vying for the job are second year former practice squad linebacker, Tyrell Adams, and rookie fifth round pick Marquel Lee.
Last year’s starter was Perry Riley Jr who the team did not re-sign and who remains unsigned.
Every time a linebacker has come available this offseason, the Raiders have not acted on signing him. The only linebacker to even have a visit was former Bills linebacker Zach Brown, but he left without signing a deal and eventually landed in Washington.
At one point the team released three players — two of whom were linebackers — without immediately making a corresponding addition. They eventually made those roster additions, adding linebacker Brady Sheldon, running back John Crockett, and offensive lineman Kareem Are. Sheldon and Are had attended the team’s rookie minicamp in May on a tryout.
But still, no true middle linebacker added to the mix.
“We want good linebacker play,” said GM Reggie McKenzie prior to the draft. “Both Jack [Del Rio] and I know what a good linebacker is supposed to look like. We’re going to get us a couple, I hope, at some point before we play in September. Whether they’re in this draft or post draft or trade, somebody gets released, we’re going to do everything we can to upgrade our team; every position, including linebacker.”
They got one linebacker when they took Marquel Lee out of Wake Forest in the 5th round of the draft. But unless you count a couple undrafted free agent signings, that second linebacker McKenzie said he would like to bring in has not yet materialized.
Pickins are slim as far as experienced middle linebackers go. Perry Riley Jr is actually the top name out there, and it’s a bit of a mystery at this point that the 29-year-old remains unsigned. Usually that suggests an injury of some kind. If that’s the case, at some point he could sign somewhere. Perhaps back with the Raiders.
The next name on the market who is seeing some interest is Zach Orr. He has visited a handful of teams and Monday was in Houston to visit the Texans. Last season he started 15 games for the Ravens, but prior to that he was a special teams guy. Doubtful the 25-year-old gets any long term offers.
Rolando McClain is out there. (crickets)
Other interesting names include Rey Maualuga (30), Daryl Washington (30), D’Qwell Jackson (33), Kelvin Sheppard (29), Erin Henderson (31), and Akeem Dent (29).
At this point, you have to think the Raiders just aren’t interested in any of these guys. That is they’re not interested in them at this time. Remember, Perry Riley Jr didn’t join the team until after week four last year, once they discovered they didn’t have a solid starter on the roster. Then he got the call.
The benefit to waiting until after the season opener to sign a player is their contract is not guaranteed. And perhaps with several potential fill-ins on the market, the Raiders figure they have some time to see if the cream rises to the top among the guys they have now.
McKenzie mentioned making a trade as a possibility and we already know he is keen on scooping up linebackers from the waiver wire — Perry Riley Jr, Lorenzo Alexander, and Korey Toomer to name a few.
Waiting for a good linebacker to be cut and hoping he falls to the 23rd spot in the waiver order is not the best way to live.
Also see: Top five Raiders training camp battles.