ORLANDO, Fla. – The Raiders plan to play new linebacker Tahir Whitehead on the outside of their 4-3 base defense, most likely on the weak side.
Whitehead has experience playing all three linebacker spots including the middle, but general manager Reggie McKenzie would prefer to have someone else occupy the center spot.
He wants NaVorro Bowman playing in the eye of his defense, running the show. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has expressed a similar sentiment.
The desire is there. A deal, however, is not. Yet.
Bowman remains on the open market, hoping to develop a satisfying deal with the Raiders or another team. McKenzie has made an offer. It has not been accepted.
That doesn't mean he's giving up hope Bowman will re-up with a team he joined midseason, after being released by the 49ers.
"I will say this: We would love to have NaVorro back," McKenzie said Monday during an interview with Raiders beat writers at the NFL owners meetings. "We haven't been able to work out a deal, but that doesn't mean we don't want him. We really do."
Bowman's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was at the Ritz Carlton hotel Tuesday, where this year's annual meeting is held and, according to The Athletic, will meet with the Raiders on Bowman's behalf. The Raiders hope to have Bowman back in the fray shortly, though they are working on a budget.
McKenzie doesn't have much salary-cap space remaining, though they can quickly cut a veteran without guaranteed money to create room to re-sign Bowman.
That remains a priority, even though the process has taken longer than the Raiders hoped. They wanted to re-sign Bowman before free agency opened March 14, but the linebacker has slow-played things trying to maximize his compensation.
The Raiders wants Bowman and Whitehead playing together, giving a veteran element to the linebacker corps. Both guys are strong run defenders, but a true coverage presence is also needed in the group.
Whitehead could play in the middle, but the Raiders could look to others, likely in the NFL draft, if Bowman goes elsewhere.
Bringing him back, however, remains a priority.