While most Raiders fans Tuesday morning were wondering what will happen with veteran place-kicker Sebastian Janikowski — whether he will agree to a reworked deal with the team or be released — there’s another big issue of uncertainty with the team.
So far, the Raiders have yet to make a move to strengthen their linebacking corps.
After cut-down day Saturday, Oakland is heading into Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Titans with rookie Marquel Lee starting at middle linebacker, flanked by Cory James on the weak side and Bruce Irvin on the strong side. The backups are Tyrell Adams and Nicholas Morrow. That’s just five linebackers, and two — Lee and Morrow — who are rookies.
The team cut Shilique Calhoun, Ben Heeney and LaTroy Lewis and placed veteran Jelani Jenkins on season-ending injured reserve (his contract later was terminated). The Raiders did bring Calhoun back to the practice squad, but most NFL analysts expected the team to bring in another veteran linebacker to strengthen the group. As of Tuesday morning, however, the Raiders still hadn’t signed any veterans released from other teams.
As Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com noted after the Raiders’ roster cuts, the team is vulnerable at linebacker — a position that has been a source of concern since last season.
Wrote Gutierrez: “Linebacker is an obvious weakness in Oakland, so moving on from these guys (Heeney, Calhoun, Lewis) deepens and widens that need. Expect the Raiders to hit the linebacker market hard on waivers and perhaps even renew acquaintances with Perry Riley Jr.”
Riley, who played for the Raiders last season, was not re-signed in the offseason and remains a free agent.
It had been hoped that Jenkins, a four-year veteran with the Dolphins, would help. He was the Raiders’ only veteran defensive free-agent signing this offseason, but Jenkins suffered an injury in training camp.
With just days remaining before Game 1 of the 2017 season — vs. the Titans in Tennessee Sunday at 10 a.m. — the Raiders still have a big question mark hanging over the linebacker position.