It turns out the speculation about Tahir Whitehead was correct.
In February, there were rumors the Raiders might release the veteran linebacker after his second season with the team. Though Whitehead, an eight-year NFL veteran, had 108 tackles over 16 games in 2019 – his fourth straight season of 100 or more tackles – his role had been reduced late in the season and his effectiveness in pass coverage was suspect. Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group last month suggested the Raiders might release him to save as much as $6.25 million in salary-cap space for 2020. McDonald said the release might be “imminent.”
That proved true this week when the Raiders announced Whitehead’s release. The linebacker was entering the final year of his three-year deal with the Raiders.
Whitehead played his first six seasons with the Detroit Lions, and was a durable player and tackling machine for the Lions and Raiders. In two years in Oakland, he played all 32 games and had a total of 234 tackles, an interception, six passes defensed, 15 tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
But in pass coverage, Whitehead was a liability. According to Pro Football Focus, Whitehead gave up 51 completions on 65 targets in 2019 – a 78.5 completion rate – for 687 yards and six touchdowns, with quarterbacks compiling a rating of 141.5 when they targeted him.
While Whitehead was strong against the run, the Raiders have decided to move on. Linebacker will be a priority position for the team to upgrade in free agency and the draft.