Las Vegas Raiders: 3 potential free agent targets at linebacker

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LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 29: Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips shakes hands with inside linebacker Cory Littleton #58 of the Los Angeles Rams during pregame warm up for the game against the Arizona Cardinals at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

Cory Littleton

Just about every team that needs a linebacker will be targeting Cory Littleton. At the position, he’s the headliner of the class and his ability to cover is the primary reason.

The four-year pro put together an impressive campaign last season as he allowed 520 receiving yards, a passer rating of 93.3 when targeted, and a measly 6.1 yards per target. Littleton is more than just a one-year wonder as those figures were about the same – 536, 94.3, and 8.4 – in 2018. He also racked up seven and a half sacks the last couple of years and for comparison, all the Silver and Black’s linebackers have combined for one during that timeframe.

Where things dicey with Littleton is his play against the run. He only managed to gather six tackles for loss in 2019 which ranks tied for 57th among all linebackers, and he has posted poor PFF run-defense grades throughout his career. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther likes players who are stout against the run, see Tahir Whitehead, so this could make the organization hesitant to open up the checkbook for the former Ram.

At the end of the day, coverage was the biggest issue among the Raiders’ linebacking corps this year and has been for some time now. While stopping the ground game is important, it’s time for the middle of the defense to get more athletic and start effecting the opponent’s aerial attack.

Littleton fits that description and will likely become one of the highest-paid linebackers in the NFL this offseason. For a baseline contract, Deion Jones, who has a similar skill set, makes $14.25 million per year so expect the soon-to-be free-agent to receive a similar contract.

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