With free agency a little over a month away, it’s time to check in on the Raiders’ linebacker position to give it a condition of either Strong, Stable, Unstable, Serious, or Critical.
Starters: Cory Littleton, Nick Kwiatkoski
Backups: Tanner Muse, Asmar Bilal, James Onwualu, Javin White
Free agents: Nicholas Morrow, Raekwon McMillan, Kyle Wilber
No Raiders addition last season was more celebrated than Cory Littleton. He was widely considered the top all-around linebacker available, which was just what the Raiders needed. His season was a rough one, as he seemed to have difficulty getting on the same page of the defense and to perform in coverage; an area he had previously excelled. The Raiders are hoping that was simply switching schemes with no real offseason along with Paul Guenther’s difficult playbook. Either way he was paid too well not to be given another chance.
Nick Kwiatkoski was less heralded as a free agent. He was promoted as a player who was ready to finally step up as a full time starting middle linebacker after several years of depth and spot starter duties in Chicago. At times he seemed to live up to that billing, though he missed four games. Like Littleton, the team hopes for improvement in a new scheme under new DC Gus Bradley.
It was fourth-year linebacker Nicholas Morrow who stood out among the group. He was consistently the best linebacker on the team, despite just 11 starts. He led the team in solo tackles (62), and was second on the team in both tackles for loss (8) and sacks (three).
Trading a fourth-round pick for Raekwon McMillan was a complete waste. He was a liability in his limited time on the field and is now headed for free agency.
Tanner Muse was drafted late in the third round, but was seen as a project from the start. Then he missed the entire season on injured reserve.
Attempting to re-sign Morrow will be the team’s first priority at the position. Should that not work, they will have to replace him. They used free agency to bulk up the position last season, only addressing it in the draft at the end of the third round. No question that doing nothing is simply not an option.