2012 Free Agency begins next Tuesday, March 13th at 4pm. The second in a series of looks at positions the Raiders may target.
Strong side, Kamerion Wimbley
Middle: Rolando McClain
Weak Side: Quentin Groves initially, Aaron Curry after trade
Offseason Moves so far: none
On the Roster:
Carl Ihenacho – signed to reserve/future contract 1/3/2012. DE in college, but listed as LB on Raiders.com
Restricted Free Agents: None
Unrestricted Free Agents:
Ricky Brown – not actually on the roster at season's end but last team was the Raiders
Projected 2012 Starters:
Strong Side: ?
Middle: Rolando McClain
Weak Side: Curry? Goethel?
On the surface the Raiders look like they are returning all three starters on LB into next year – Wimbley, McClain and Curry – as all three are under contract. However, of the three only McClain is really a lock to be around come training camp.
Wimbley is carrying an $11 Million price tag into this season and reports are that the Raiders will cut him if he does not agree to restructure. Wimbley's agent has said they would listen to any offers the Raiders make but he's unlikely to simply take less money, so any restructuring would have to lower his base salary and convert much of that money into a signing bonus.
It's unclear if the Raiders' brass is willing to pay Wimbley that much money given that he's a good but not great player. He's not a player that opposing offenses have to game plan around and he's streaky – he get's multiple sacks in some games and is held relatively silent in others.
Curry is also no guarantee to be on the team next week. He's due a salary of approximately $7Million into this new year and that's too high for a player with his weaknesses. Curry was stout against the run last year but a liability in pass coverage – the same problems that plagued him in Seattle and why they traded him to Oakland mid season last year for only a 7th round pick. If Curry restructures, it seems likely he'd be able to come back but the new coaching staff will either need to successfully mold him into a good coverage LB or game plan around his weaknesses in coverage.
Travis Goethel is a talented LB who cannot get healthy enough to see the field. Every year in training camp there are great reviews about his play but he is a big injury concern. If the Raiders can get production out of him at all this year – as a starter or a backup – count it as a bonus.
The Raiders badly need assistance, here. They currently have 4 LB's on the roster, two of whom are likely to be cut if they don't restructure, one of whom is a big injury risk and the last, McClain, has been underwhelming.
Coach Allen has said that he'd like the defense to be "multiple" which means they would be able to play not only a base 4-3 but also a 3-4 defense. At this point there are questions whether they will even have enough linebackers on the roster to be able to field a 3-4 let alone play it well.
I expect the Raiders to sign a number of young linebackers for cheap this offseason - probably giving a good shot to a few undrafted free agent rookies to see if anyone can stick. They need bodies in camp and they need competition to push whoever earns the starting spot. There isn't a player on the roster at this position that is guaranteed a starting spot.
It would also be ideal if the Raiders could identify and target a solid veteran in free agency to be able to start at one of the positions and solidfy the LB corp.
In free agency, there are a few impact linebackers available. It will depend on who McKenzie and Allen covet and how much they are willing to spend.
The top linebackers include Curtis Lofton of the Falcons, who finished 5th in the league in tackles with 147 tackles (for comparison, the leading tackler on the Raiders was Tyvon Branch with 109. The leading LB on the Raiders was Rolando McClain with 99). Lofton is 25, so still very young. While I would love for him to be on the Raiders, I would be surprised if they were able to outbid others who will be interested in him.
Other top available LBs are Stephen Tulloch of Detroit, Dan Connor of Carolina and David Hawthorne of Seattle, all of who have good potential.
An interesting option would also be London Fletcher of the Redskins. He's 36 at this point and will be 37 by the start of next season but he's still extremely productive and he led the league in tackles last year with 166 total. He's also a very strong leader in the locker room. He's expressed interest in remaining with Washington and they appear to also be interested so that seems the most likely landing spot but if the Raiders could get him for a good price that would be a good risk/reward option for the Raiders.
Who do you want the Raiders to sign, if anyone, this free agency period?
Ask me questions or tell me what you think on Twitter @AsherMathews
London Fletcher would be the best reward and could teach seymor and McClain how to give 100% all the time
Oh, Palmer has restructured also now. How much we have saved now, I do not know. My guess is at least 5-7M.
I want Mario Freakin' Williams. Nuff said. He was a beast as a 3-4 OLB after the Texans made the switch when they hired Wade Phillips as DC. I know that he'd likely be the second highest paid free agent, behind the newly released Peyton Manning. Still, he would be such a badass, versatile weapon to have. He is what Wimbley never will be, a beast standing up or with his hand in the dirt.
Other LBers I like are Tulloch, Lofton, Grant, Lawson, the Hendersons, and Ruud. I am on the fence with Connor. He has not stayed healthy. Ruud might not be expensive cuz he had a down year. The Hendersons and Grant are kind of unknown, so they might be cheap. Lofton and Tulloch will be the two most expensive of this group after Williams.
May get one or two of the Donkey line backers for Coach Allen`s system fit should have enough $ Kelly will restructure we will also make some noise with the comp picks think small school good players
Even if Wimbley and Curry stick (hope they do restructure), we all know LBs are needed aplenty...the question that only McK & DA can answer is where do they make their FA splash signing CB or LB....either way we will definitely add numerous LBs and I bet at least two who know DA and his scheme....your thoughts?
Fletcher would be a great signing if we could bring him in. I don't think he will command a lot of money just because of his age, where Lofton will be too expensive and maybe Tulloch as well. Hawthorne is an interesting player who I think may come cheaply and Connor could be another but he does carry some injury concerns although I think he only missed one game this season?
Other guys I would like to see targeted if their price is right are: Bringing back Capt. Kirk; Jameel McClain and Jarret Johnson from the Ravens; Joe Mays and Wesley Woodward from the Broncos; Brandon Johnson and Manny Lawson from the Bengals, Packer Erik Walden; Vikings pair of Hendersons, Titans Barrettt Rudd and last but not least Larry Grant from the 49ers. Grant really stepped up his game when Willis when down for a couple games this year the 49ers defense didn't miss a beat which is really saying something when we all know how good Willis is.
I like Fletcher a lot. If he's available nad if he doesn't want to be payed like an elite LB, he would be my choice. Some other free agents I think worthy of giving a call are:
Kirk Morrison: He's been with the team, we all know he's not spectacular but he's solid and he won't be expensive.
James Farrior: He's old but he's still pretty good.
Cut McClain and make Curry the MLB. Primary job of an MLB is to stuff the run and McClain only impresses in forward gear. Defensively, you cant have enough guys who really hustle to the ball like Curry and Tyvon Branch.
I think Raiders Draft either James Micheal Johnson,Jsh Kaddu or Mychal kendricks and pick up Manny Lawson from cinncy he has played under Tarver at 49ers
The player I really like on Asher's list is Stephen Tulloch from Detroit. I watched the Lions play quite a bit last year, and Tulloch definitely made an impression on defense. I think the Raiders could benefit from having Tulloch on their roster, as he is really an aggressive minded, talented player who would fit very well in the Raider defensive scheme. He won't be cheap to sign, but he is a guy that would have great value for the buck.
@dondiraider Actually, if this were Las Vegas I would be placing my bet at Nose Tackle. There's gonna be too litle ando too expensive NT's and I'd love to see Sione Pouha playing for the Raiders.
@nilbymouth Lol, someone else's been checking the free agent's list at footballsfuture.com
I know they set Dan Connor high, but he's a mediocre linebacker. He started just 11 games last season and his numbers have never been amazing. He's got just 94 tackles through his whole career.
Barret Ruud (they misspelled it at footballsfuture, that's how I got you) intrigues me too, he had some good years back in Tampa Bay, but his one season at Tennessee was disapointing.
I totally agree on Larry Grant. He would be aewsome.
Missed out on Capt Kirk returning. Just re-signed a two year deal with the Bills.
@Spartacus Yeah, my only concern about signing a guy like Tulloch is his price.
@Black_Nightmare excellent point won't rule that out....looking forward to the answer =who gets the big K? It will Also give us a bit of insight into the minds of MkC & DA and how they may operate going forward.
Caught out! lol But yeah it's a good site to get a idea of who is upcoming in Free Agency.
I think Larry Grant will be the find of the group at LB for some team (hopefully us!!) just like Red Bryant on the DL. And both should come at reasonable prices as well which is even better.
@Black_Nightmare @Spartacus Tulloch is a beast, no two ways about it! He is also versatile and can fit in any scheme, so he would be a great signing! Although i know we have serious issues at other positions, Tulloch is actually the player i prefer to sign above all else (excluding unreachables and bank busters)!
He will probably require a decent contract, but remember that he just played for nothing (near minimum) for the last year, so if we make a move he will not break the bank for us even if given a good contract!