The Las Vegas Raiders have rumored to be interested in almost every top free agent in the 2020 pool and they’ve finally cut their first deal. The team has a desperate need at linebacker and recently let Tahir Whitehead go. They could have found his replacement in former Chicago Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski. Based on the fact that the linebacker posted a picture of the Raiders’ Las Vegas Stadium on Twitter, it’s all but confirmed that he’s wearing silver and black in 2020.
Kwiatkoski came into the NFL as a fourth-round pick in 2016. As part of the loaded Bears defense, he didn’t really get a chance to show what he could do until his team was struck with injury and he was thrust into a starting role. He finished the season with eight starts and 76 combined tackles. He showed solid coverage skills in the middle last season and decent pass-rushing ability. Kwiatkoski may not have been the biggest name on the market, but it was a solid pickup by Mike Mayock and he didn’t cost too much money at all.
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PFF Gave Kwiatkoski Strong Grade in 2019
Many won’t be familiar with Nick Kwiatkoski, but it was a solid pickup for a Raiders team that needs help at linebacker. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the 15th best linebacker in the NFL last season.
That’s a much better grade than any Raider linebacker received in 2019. He’s about to get a chance to show off his ability as a consistent starter and it’ll be interesting to see how he rises to the challenge. Considering he’s gotten praise from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the past, he could have a really bright future ahead of him.
“Forty-four I’ve always thought is a really solid player,” Rodgers said, via The Athletic. “I don’t want to butcher his last name, but he rocked me a couple years ago. I know where 44’s at most of the time when he’s in the game.”
Raiders Aren’t Done Adding Linebackers
Kwiatkoski was a good find for the Raiders, but they still have a lot of work to do. Marquel Lee is the only linebacker who is currently under contract with the team and he’s probably not in line to be a starter. Assuming Kwiatkoski starts in the middle, the Raiders will need at least two more solid additions. They could wait until the draft to address the position, but don’t be surprised if they get it figured out in free agency.
Cory Littleton has yet to strike a deal and the Raiders are reportedly very interested in him. Nick Vigil is another name who has been linked to Las Vegas. There are a number of really strong linebacker options in free agency. The Raiders don’t necessarily need to spend big to upgrade the position over last year. However, they should at least make a run at some of the bigger names available because they need a strong player to lead the defense.