Having an elite pass rusher such as Khalil Mack is a blessing for the Raiders. Having a standout pass rusher to pair with Mack is even better.
In just the second day into the NFL free agency portion of the offseason, Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie has reached into his large money bag to come to an agreement with former Seattle Seahawks defensive end/linebacker Bruce Irvin, according to NFL.com and ESPN.com.
Irvin, a versatile edge defender on fine Seattle defenses since arriving as the 15th overall pick of the 2012 draft, has 22 career sacks. He reunites with former Seahawks assistant Ken Norton Jr., now the Raiders’ defensive coordinator.
Irvin had eight sacks as a rookie, two in his second season and then 6½ and 5½ the past two seasons. Those numbers aren’t eye-popping, but Irvin was just one piece of a complex defense in Seattle, and the Seahawks loved moving him around, depending on the down and situation. He was converted from defensive end at West Virginia to outside linebacker, and played linebacker in the Seahawks’ base defense and defensive end in nickel coverage on passing downs.
His presence opposite Mack should grab the attention of opposing offenses. If they send too much protection toward Mack, Irvin may be able to make them pay. And, if defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. turns out to be healthy for 2016 – he has a neck injury – and the Raiders decide to bring back Aldon Smith when his suspension is completed during the season, the Raiders would have a formidable and versatile pass-rushing corps.
Kevin Patra of NFL.com noted Wednesday that Irvin has developed into a very good linebacker, solid in pass coverage while also being a “superior sideline-to-sideline run defender.”
“It will be interesting to see how Norton deploys Irvin alongside Mack,” wrote Patra.
It’s been a dynamic two days to start the free agency period for McKenzie, who has made big moves on both sides of the ball to shore up talent in the trenches. On the first day, the Raiders came to terms with perhaps the best offensive lineman in former Ravens standout Kelechi Osemele. On the second day, it was Irvin, who was ranked as the fifth-best free agent available in the NFL, according to NFL.com.
Signings can officially be announced Wednesday afternoon.