The Las Vegas Raiders spent the money they needed to on the linebacker position this offseason, and the group will be key to their success in 2020.
Last season, the then-Oakland Raiders struggled mightily at the linebacker position, and it all really started when Vontaze Burfict was suspended for the entire season only four games in. Burfict had been serving as the leader of the group, and his loss was felt the rest of the way.
When you couple that with the fact that Tahir Whitehead just cannot cover, the Raiders linebacker group was an Achilles heel that opposining offenses targeted week in and week out. This offseason, general manager Mike Mayock made sure that would not be the case, picking two big names in free agency, before adding a quality hybrid linebacker from Clemson in the draft.
Cory Littleton, Nick Kwiatkoski, and Tanner Muse will now be tasked with changing the narrative in terms of this position group, and they join a collection of players who should be able to provide solid depth. Nicholas Morrow, Kyle Wilber, and possibly even undrafted free agent Javin White are all players who have a chance to make this roster, while guys like Nick Usher, Bryce Hager, and Justin Phillips attempt to latch on as well.
Linebacker group ‘on the rise’
No matter which guys are there behind Kwitakoski and Littleton, this is a group that is vastly improved from the year before, and were recently ranked as by ESPN’s Mike Clay as the unit in the NFL that is ‘on the rise.’
That is big praise for a unit that really will be counted on to change the Raiders fortunes on the defensive side of the ball. With added talent up front along the defensive line, and some solid veterans brought into the secondary, the 2020 defense is going to look a lot different, but it is also going to be a lot more talented.
Littleton coming to the Silver and Black was obviously the crown jewel of this free agency period, as he was widely regarded as the best linebacker available this offseason. He brings a skill set that the Raiders defense has not had in quite some time, and if he is the player he was with the Los Angeles Rams, he will be well worth the money spent to get him.