Raiders could wade into deep pool of linebackers in free agency
Should the Raiders choose to turn to the free agent market to address a need at linebacker, there should be plenty of options.
Updated January 29, 2023 - 11:05 pm
Editor’s note: This is the seventh story in an eight-part series looking at NFL free agency this offseason and how it relates to the Raiders.
The Raiders discovered some promising young players at linebacker last season who could serve as the foundation at the position for the next couple of years.
But there is still work to do, particularly with stalwart Denzel Perryman set to hit free agency.
Perryman has been a reliable tackler and leader over the past two seasons and could be a part of the plans for the future. Should he leave, however, the Raiders would be left with just three returning players under contract and likely in the market for at least one more steady playmaker to add to that solid base.
Divine Deablo and Luke Masterson are at the forefront of the returning group.
Deablo took a big step forward in his second season, playing nearly every defensive snap in the first seven games before suffering an arm injury that kept him out for the rest of the season. He was on his way to leading the team in tackles at the time he was shut down.
In his absence, undrafted rookie free agent Masterson staked his claim for a larger role in 2023 with strong performances down the stretch. He made seven starts and settled into an every-down role.
Darien Butler, also an undrafted rookie free agent, played mostly on special teams but has drawn praise for his development.
The Raiders could continue to bolster the unit with young players through the draft, or dip into the free-agent pool at what figures to be one of the deepest positions in terms of high-end talent this offseason.
The biggest prize there is no longer available. Baltimore kept Roquan Smith off the market by inking him to a five-year, $100 million deal with $60 million guaranteed.
Here’s a look at some of the other linebackers who could be on the move this offseason:
Germaine Pratt, Bengals
Cincinnati is about to shell out some massive contracts, and the 26-year-old Pratt might not fit in the budget. That would be a big coup for some other team. He’s one of the best linebackers in the league in terms of pass coverage and has become a sure tackler in the box. He could be one of the more quietly coveted players available this offseason.
David Long, Titans
It’s tough to imagine Tennessee letting the ascending 26-year-old get away, but Long could be in for a big payday. The former sixth-round draft pick has improved each season, and he shined this year, particularly when he was allowed to attack the line of scrimmage against the run and as a pass rusher.
Tremaine Edmunds, Bills
Another player who might get away from an AFC contender because of cap implications. The former first-round draft pick is only 24, even though he has played out his entire five-year rookie deal. One of the only question marks about his game entering last season was his ability in pass coverage, but he flashed elite skills in that department.
Bobby Okereke, Colts
The Stanford alum is a sure tackler who excels as a run-stopper and has the skills to be better in coverage than he has shown in his four seasons. The 26-year-old is more steady than spectacular.
Lavonte David, Buccaneers
While he is 33, David is still playing at a high level and would bring championship experience wherever he ends up. He is among the best in the league in pass coverage.
T.J. Edwards, Eagles
In four seasons, he has gone from undrafted rookie free agent to one of the better all-around linebackers in the league. The 26-year-old was one of just four linebackers in the league to earn a grade of at least 75.0 against the run and the pass from Pro Football Focus.
Others: Leighton Vander Esch, Cowboys; Devin Bush, Steelers; Anthony Walker Jr., Browns; Nicholas Morrow, Bears; Elandon Roberts, Dolphins; Rashaan Evans, Falcons; Drue Tranquill, Chargers.
Contact Adam Hill at email@example.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.
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