Linebacker has been a position group that the Las Vegas Raiders have been trying to solve for years and have mostly failed. During the 2020 offseason, the team handed a combined $56 million in contracts to Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski. Those two were supposed to fix the problems at linebacker for years to come.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Kwiatkoski has missed a combined nine games due to injury the last two seasons and Littleton was dropped from the linebacker rotation due to poor play. Perhaps new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will know how to get the best out of them but the more likely scenario is that neither player is in Las Vegas at the start of the season.
Raiders insider for ESPN Paul Gutierrez believes that the two linebackers are the team’s biggest cut candidates this offseason despite a huge dead cap hit:
Two guys to watch are linebackers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski. They were signed to revamp the LB corps in 2020, and neither player has lived up to the hype, as Littleton was replaced by rookie Divine Deablo last season and a banged-up Kwiatkoski had all kinds of trouble staying on the field. Littleton, though, has a cap number of more than $15.7 million for 2022. Yikes.
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Raiders Wouldn’t Save Much Money
There’s no question that Kwiatkoski and Littleton have been busts so far but the Raiders may not have a choice but to keep them. If the team cuts Littleton, they will have a $14 million dead cap hit. Cutting him would save them less than $2 million in cap space. Obviously, any type of cap space is better than keeping a player who won’t play but Littleton is a former Pro Bowler who is just 28-years-old. Perhaps Graham can get the linebacker to return to form.
Cutting Kwiatkoski is a bit easier to swallow. He carries a dead cap hit of $5 million if he’s cut and the Raiders save about $3 million. Considering he’s never shown the flashes that Littleton has and also has injury concerns, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be on the team next season.
LB Could Be a Major Need This Offseason
The Raiders have a couple of linebackers they really like in Divine Deablo and Denzel Perryman. The former was a rookie who stepped in and earned a starting spot halfway through the season. Plus, he played well. He could be a key player for the Raiders going forward.
Perryman was a tackling machine last season who earned a spot in the Pro Bowl. He’s only making $3 million next season so Las Vegas has to be thrilled with what they have in him. Outside of those two, there are questions at the position. Nicholas Morrow missed the entire season due to injury and is a free agent. The new front office and coaching staff don’t know much about him so he could look for a fresh start. If the Raiders decide to move on from both Littleton and Kwiatkoski, expect them to address the position in free agency or the draft.