One of the Raiders’ offseason goals was to get better and more athletic at linebacker. Even weeks before the draft, that’s been accomplished.
By adding ex-Rams standout Cory Littleton and former Bears starter Nik Kwiatkoski, the Raiders should have a much deeper and more talented linebacker corps.
While Littleton was one of the best linebackers available in free agency, Kwiatkoski was a more under-the-radar pickup, and a good relative value at three years for as much as $21 million.
Kwiatkoski was a fourth-round pick of the Chicago Bears out of West Virginia in 2016, but over his first three seasons didn’t make a huge impact. He started 13 games total his first two seasons, then was limited by injury to just one game in 2018. But when a starting spot opened up because of an injury in 2019, Kwiatkoski became a starter and exceeded expectations. He played in all 16 games, had 76 total tackles (eight for loss), three sacks, an interception and four passes defensed.
Recently ESPN’s Anthony Treash called Kwiatkoski’s signing one of the most underrated in free agency.
Wrote Treash: “Kwiatkoski was mostly a rotational player in Chicago, seeing starting action only in the event of an injury. Yet outside of his rookie year, he has looked like a starting-caliber off-the-ball linebacker in the NFL when given the opportunity to be on the field.”
Treash noted that, since 2017, Kwiatkoski has been graded among the top 15 NFL off-the-ball linebackers in the league, with high valuations as a run defender, pass rusher and in pass coverage.
As of now, Kwiatkoski figures to start on one side, with Littleton in the middle and Nicholas Morrow the top candidate to start on the other side.