In recent days, Raiders linebacker Bruce Irvin has been acting as a talent scout and recruiter.
Irvin has been tweeting to Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower and Cardinals defensive lineman Calais Campbell to come wear silver and black when the free-agency period opens this Thursday.
One of Irvin’s best pitches has been that each could come play with a “walking hall of famer” in defensive end/linebacker Khalil Mack.
Soon, the Raiders will find out if Irvin’s as good a salesman as he was a playmaker in his first season in Oakland this past year.
The Raiders want to get much stronger in the middle of their defense, and Hightower, an inside linebacker, could be the key ingredient.
Hightower, who just helped the Patriots win another Super Bowl, is not only strong against the run but one of the best inside linebackers in the NFL at rushing the passer. He’s coming off his first Pro Bowl season and was in on 65 tackles in 13 games with 2½ sacks, a forced fumble and two batted passes. Over the past three seasons he’s had 12 sacks from his inside linebacker spot.
As Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com noted, Hightower’s 26 total quarterback pressures this past season were second in the NFL among inside linebackers. He might come with a high price tag, however, of about $48 million for four years, said Gutierrez.
It’s been reported that the Patriots might like to retain Hightower, but they’re going to let him hit the market on Thursday, see what kind of deal he’s offered and then make a counter offer – if they believe they can afford it. According to Mike Reiss of ESPN, who covers the Patriots, New England may not be able to keep every player it wants, because it has several talents entering free agency, including Hightower, tight end Martellus Bennett, cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Duron Harmon.