The Las Vegas Raiders made some big moves this offseason but perhaps the biggest move was signing former Los Angeles Rams linebacker Cory Littleton. The 2018 Pro Bowler came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent and quickly became one of the best linebackers in the NFL. He hit free agency this offseason and was easily the top linebacker available.
Surprisingly, the Raiders were able to get him at a solid price and he recently told Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal why he chose the silver and black.
“To me, they’ve made a lot of great strides in the right direction, especially since Jon Gruden got there,” Littleton said. “And just to be a part of that, I believe we have a chance to do something special.”
The team has struggled greatly at linebacker for years and Littleton is easily the most talented player they’ve had at the position over the last decade. Though he grew up in San Diego, California, Littleton is very familiar with the Raiders.
“It’s an organization that, if you know anything about football then you know about this team,” Littleton said. “I’ve had family members that have loved this franchise for decades.”
Proximity to Home Made Las Vegas Appealing
Considering the Chargers no longer call San Diego home, Los Angeles is the closest a team can get to Littleton’s hometown. Unfortunately, there was no way the Rams could afford to bring him back with their lack of cap space. Littleton is happy he was able to stay somewhat close to home.
“It isn’t the number one factor but it’s definitely a big plus for me being able to come to this organization,” Littleton said. “I love that it’s close to San Diego and close to home. It’s close to family and friends.”
Las Vegas also has major tax benefits for Littleton compared to California. His undrafted free agency salary over the last four years wasn’t particularly hefty, so he’s in for the biggest payday of his life.
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Jon Gruden Praises Littleton
The Raiders weren’t shy about how they needed to upgrade at linebacker this offseason. Instead of going after rookies in the draft, the team decided to make their mark in free agency. Head coach Jon Gruden had a chance to talk about the upgraded linebacker corps with Jerry McDonald of The Mercury News:
We think both those linebackers fill tremendous voids on our defense. What we went through here at that position the last several years, it’s not good. It’s just not good. We think Littleton can make all the plays in every situation. We think he can stay on the field and play every single snap in any situation. He’s good in space. He’s good in the box. He’s a high energy guy. He’s young. He’s a complete football player.
After trying to throw aging veterans like Vontaze Burfict and Derrick Johnson on the field, the Raiders had to stop looking for temporary fixes. Littleton is only 26 and should have at least several more years of Pro Bowl-level play. It will likely become clear very quickly for Las Vegas just how much a good group of linebackers can help improve a defense.