The Las Vegas Raiders spent a lot of money revamping their linebacker corps this offseason, but they’re keeping a couple of people in-house. Marquel Lee is still under contract, Nicholas Morrow was hit with a second-round tender and now the team announced that they’re bringing back Kyle Wilber.
Wilber will be joining Rod Smith as the only other 2019 player the team has decided to re-sign since free agency started. The terms of his contract are currently unknown, but it isn’t likely a very long deal. Wilber will be heading into his third season with the silver and black.
Wilber Is a Special Teams Standout
Wilber spent the first six seasons of his career with the Dallas Cowboys. He started some games on the defense for the team but made his mark on special teams. He became one of the Cowboys’ most productive special teams defenders.
When special teams coach Rich Bisaccia left Dallas to join Jon Gruden when he returned to the Raiders, Wilber followed. Since he joined the team, he’s continued to be a special teams contributor. Though Wilber mainly plays special teams, he has starter experience. He also helps bring some strong depth to the linebacker corps. Now that former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is on the staff, it was an easy call to bring Wilber back.
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Raiders Receive Major Upgrade at Linebacker
After years of struggles at the linebacker position, the Raiders finally decided to address the position in a big way. The team only made two additions with Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkowski, but those two should make a massive difference for the team. The Raiders have struggled greatly in pass defense from their linebackers over the years. Both Littleton and Kwiatkowski excel in coverage, so they were the perfect pickups for the team. It doesn’t appear that the Raiders have a strong option for a third linebacker, but as Ted Nguyen of The Athletic pointed out, that shouldn’t be a problem for the team:
Though the Raiders are a base 4-3, defenses are almost always in nickel in this pass-happy era, meaning that for most of the game, they’ll be in a 4-2. And with Kwiatkoski and Littleton on the field, they have two players who fit the mold of the modern linebacker. Additionally, both players are young and still have room to grow. Even if they play at the same level as last season, the Raiders linebacker play will be much improved. And if they take the next step, the Raiders might have one of the best pairs of linebackers in the league.
The linebacker group will look very different in 2020. Tahir Whitehead is off to the Carolina Panthers and it seems really unlikely there’s any chance Vontaze Burfict returns. This is a good thing for the Raiders as neither guy provided much positive impact for the team. Littleton and Kwiatkowski is easily the best linebacker duo the Raiders have had in years and it could be one of the best in the NFL.