The linebacker position has been an issue for the Raiders over the past few years, and in the 2020 offseason, wholesale changes could be coming.
Last year, the Oakland Raiders struggled mightily on defense, and a lot of their issues came from the linebacker positions. Whether on the inside or out, the linebacker group underachieved for most of the season, and in the 2020 offseason, wholesale changes could be coming to the unit.
General manager Mike Mayock has already stated they have major needs at the linebacker position, which means he will likely address the spot via the 2020 NFL Draft, as well as in free agency. Heading into the offseason, the Raiders have Vontaze Burfict, Nicholas Morrow, Kyle Wilber, Will Compton, and Ukeme Eligwe all hitting free agency, and there is a chance all five of them could be gone.
Of course, the biggest question mark within that group of backers is Burfict, who was suspended for the season after a questionable hit on Jack Doyle in Week 4. To that point, he has shown flashes of his former Pro Bowl self, and he could return on a favorable deal entering his age-30 season.
Another backer who played well was Compton, who made his Raiders debut in Week 9, and had a 12-tackle game in the team’s final win of the season in Week 16. In addition, Morrow is only 24-years old, and he has shown from time to time that he could be a good depth linebacker at the NFL level.
Available Free Agents
Looking at the available free agents at both linebacker positions, there are some that really stand out as potential Raiders. At inside linebacker, guys like Blake Martinez, Cory Littleton, and Joe Schobert are all tackling machines, racking up better than 130 a piece during the 2019 NFL season, but all will be expecting big raises in 2020.
In addition, all three are only 26-years old, and have a ton of good football ahead of them. If the Raiders are going to do anything special as they make the move to Las Vegas, this defense needs playmakers, and any of these three would be well worth the money in free agency.
On the outside, Dante Fowler Jr. is another 26-year old to keep an eye on, as he started all 16 games for the Los Angeles Rams last season, and racked up 12 sacks. De’Vondre Campbell from the Atlanta Falcons had over 120 tackles from his outside linebacker spot, and Jamie Collins, while 30-years old, led all linebacker free agents with four interceptions, while also racking up ten quarterback hits, seven sacks, and 82 tackles.
When it comes to the 2020 NFL Draft, there are two linebackers that the Raiders should target in the first round, one who can play inside and out, and another who can play on the outside, as well as roam around the defensive backfield. Isaiah Simmons from Clemson and Kenneth Murray from Oklahoma are two elite linebacker talents, and the Raiders have a good chance to get at least one of them this April.
Anfernee Jennings from Alabama is another physical linebacker to keep an eye on outside of the first round, but he struggles in coverage, which has been an issue for this linebacker group for years. In addition, players like Evan Weaver from Cal and Troy Dye from Oregon are legitimate NFL talents at the linebacker position, and both are athletic enough to perform well in coverage.
In fact, this is a draft class that has a lot of talent at linebacker, and a bunch of them will be on display later today during the Senior Bowl. Remember, the Raiders added a ton of talent via the Senior Bowl last year, so sit back, and take a look at a handful of guys who could be wearing the Silver and Black in 2020.