When the Las Vegas Raiders signed Cory Littleton last offseason, he was supposed to be a major upgrade at linebacker. He had a long track record of success with the Los Angeles Rams and even made a Pro Bowl in 2018. Unfortunately, the Raiders haven’t seen the same player that terrorized offenses in Los Angeles.
In the two seasons prior to moving to Las Vegas, Littleton had a combined 7.5 sacks and five interceptions. In his first season with the Raiders, he had zero sacks or interceptions. He also only notched 82 combined tackles, which was significantly lower than the 134 he had the year prior.
The guaranteed portion of Littleton’s contract makes it virtually impossible for the Raiders to move on. Littleton has $19.3 million remaining in dead money this season—compared to a $9.3 million cap hit—and will still have $10.6 million in dead money remaining next offseason.
With three years that automatically void following the 2022 season and dead money lasting through 2025, the Raiders will still be paying Littleton after his contract ends. Based on his 2020 performance, this was a massive overpay.
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Littleton Can Change Narrative This Season
Simply put, Littleton was bad for the Raiders last season. He didn’t make any notable plays and struggled in coverage, which was supposed to be his biggest strength. So what exactly happened to the former Pro Bowler?
In Littleton’s defense, there weren’t many players who played well in Paul Guenther’s defense. The defensive coordinator was fired during the season and replaced with Gus Bradley. Guenther was noted for having overcomplicated defensive schemes. Littleton admitted that he had trouble learning the defense.
That was obvious based on his play on the field. Bradley’s system is much simpler and should cater to Littleton’s skill set. The Raiders can’t move off of his contract right now so they’re going to have to let him play it out this season. There’s a good shot he’s much improved in 2021.
Is the Raiders’ Defense Better Now?
The Raiders’ defense has been among the league’s worst for years now. Many different coaches and general managers have tried to fix it but haven’t had any luck. For the first time in a long time, things should be pointing up for the defense.
Bradley has a long track record of success and has proven he has a knack for developing young talent. Also, he simply has more talent to work with now than Guenther did. The team signed proven veterans like Yannick Ngakoue and Casey Hayward this offseason. They also drafted Trevon Moehrig in the second round and he could be a serious playmaker in the secondary. Barring injury or a complete collapse, it’s hard to imagine the Raiders’ defense doesn’t take a step forward in 2021.