Heading into free agency, the Las Vegas Raiders had a major need at linebacker. The first move they made was to sign former Chicago Bear Nick Kwiatkoski. He wasn’t the biggest name on the market and hasn’t started a ton of games, but he’s got a tremendous amount of upside. Signing him could be the steal of free agency for the Raiders.
Though he mainly played because of injuries to others, Kwiatkoski believes he’s done enough to earn a full-time starting gig and that’s one of the reasons he picked the Raiders.
“I felt that I’ve earned that spot, and that’s something I looked for in free agency,” Kwiatkoski said in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “When they told me that, it was very appealing.”
“They called very early and, when I spoke to them, it was very clear there’s an excitement around the whole organization with the move to Las Vegas,” Kwiatkoski said. “That was one of a number of reasons why I [made my decision]. When we played them in London last year and I just loved the mentality they brought to the game where they come right at you. With their defensive scheme, I thought I’d fit right in. I gave it some time and took some other calls, but I ended up thinking the Raiders were the best fit for me.”
Kwiatkoski Excited to Play With Cory Littleton
The Kwiatkoski addition is exciting and should help the Raiders defense, but he wasn’t the biggest signing of free agency at linebacker. The team’s prize of free agency was landing former Los Angeles Rams Pro Bowler Cory Littleton. He’s one of the best linebackers in the NFL and should pair up nicely with Kwiatkoski. The former Bear is excited to play with Littleton.
“He’s a great linebacker,” Kwiatkoski said. “To be able to line up with him and call him my teammate is going to be fun.”
Littleton is the more proven commodity and Kwiatkoski is an up and comer. The two should have a strong dynamic and help fix the Raiders’ linebacker issues.
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Kwiatkoski’s Work Is Paying Off
Kwiatkoski was drafted by the Bears in the fourth round in the 2016 NFL Draft. Considering Chicago has consistently had a very strong linebacker corps, he never got a chance to be a consistent starter. That wasn’t always easy for Kwiatkoski.
“There were definitely times where I got down on myself after certain things happened, but to see how it has all played out … for me, no matter what my role was or what the situation was, I just put my head down and kept working,” Kwiatkoski said. “For that to all payoff is really gratifying. You can only control what you can control, and that’s what I focused on. I never lost sight of my goals. No matter what my role was, I was determined to work like a starter and play each day like it’s my last. For it to work out the way it has, with this new opportunity, it’s really gratifying.”
He’ll now get his chance to be the unquestioned starter and if he can provide stability in the middle of the defense, he’s going to quickly become a star in Las Vegas.