Breaking news: Raiders add new linebacker
If there’s a position of need the Raiders haven’t heavily addressed over the off-season, it’s middle linebacker.
Along with some struggles in the secondary, the Raiders inside linebacker play was among the biggest issues on a defense that ranked 26th in the league, allowing 375.1 yards per game.
The primary starters last year were Malcolm Smith, who signed a five-year deal with the 49ers, and Perry Riley Jr., who joined the team last year a month into the season. Ben Heeney started the year at the Mike linebacker position before being benched for rookie Cory James and then getting injured. James had a decent game or two before Riley took over.
With everyone waiting for the Raiders to address the linebacker play during the draft, the Raiders finally did in the fifth round with Marquel Lee. He’s a player with potential, but even general manager Reggie McKenzie has said Lee is a “long ways away.”
Outside linebacker Bruce Irvin doesn’t hide his recruiting efforts and areas he hopes the team will target to improve the roster. He was all in on pushing for Zach Brown, who instead signed with Washington.
But he’s also spent a good share of the off-season pushing for the Raiders to bring back Riley, a former high school teammate of his that he was thrilled to get a chance to play with again last year.
That continued Saturday night. When somebody tweeted that the Raiders had the most talented roster in the league but just needed to find some defensive interior support, Irvin, a.k.a. Baby Reggie, made his pitch again to general manager Reggie McKenzie.
Riley was solid while playing in 11 games for the Raiders. He had 48 tackles and two forced fumbles and looked the part of a veteran. He tied for the 15th highest grade among linebackers last year, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Raiders could do worse than re-signing Riley. Just like last year, when the Raiders had interest in Riley but didn’t bring him in until October, it’ll come down to money. McKenzie has indicated the team wants to see what they have on the roster first, but as long as Riley remains a street free agent, he remains a possibility.