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Raiders free agency wish list: One inside linebacker is obvious choice

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Kansas City Chiefs vs Oakland Raiders Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It’s not an especially plentiful market for inside linebackers. Among them there is one players who stands out as the clear choice for the Raiders at the position. And it couldn’t be easier for them to reel him in. Mainly because he’s already in the boat.

NaVorro Bowman

Above all other potential middle linebackers on the market, the Raiders need to make a play to keep Bowman. Not only is he the best set to hit the market, he’s already in-house. The Raiders snatched him up six games into last season and in just 10 starts in Oakland, he finished leading the team in tackles. He also had a combined 126 tackles (80 solo) in 15 games between the 49ers and Raiders. That’s tenth most in the NFL.

Bowman is still just 29 years of age. The same age Greg Biekert was when Jon Gruden took over as head coach of the Raiders back in 1998 and two years younger than Shelton Quarles was when Gruden was traded to the Buccaneers in 2002.

Zach Brown

The Raiders had Brown for a visit last offseason, but he left without a deal. Apparently not getting the kind of long term deal he was looking for, he signed on with Washington on a one-year deal. What teams wanted to see is if he could duplicate his breakout 2016 season. And from the looks of it, he did just that. He tallied 127 combined tackles (84 solo) in 13 games last season, finishing with the 9th most in the NFL. That’s averaging nearly double digit tackles per game (9.8), which is even better than his tackles per game average in 2016 (9.3) and averaged out over 16 games would have led the league (156). Where he struggles is in coverage, which could be a major issue for the Raiders. Even still, Brown is just 28. If for whatever reason the Raiders don’t bring back Bowman, he could be worth another look.

Potential cut

Clay Mathews (Packers)

Reggie McKenzie was in Green Bay when the Packers made Matthews the 26th overall pick out of USC. He then went on to make six Pro Bowls, the first three before McKenzie left to become the Raiders’ GM. Now 31, Mathews will be an $11.4 million cap hit for the Packers with no dead money left behind, making it very likely he will be released this offseason. He can play inside or outside linebacker. Keep in mind as well, Raiders’ new Defensive Line coach Mike Trgovac was had the same position in Green Bay the past nine years.