The Raiders need linebacker help, and they need it in bulk.
That’s required after another lackluster season at the position and a renewed commitment to get it right.
The Raiders cut veteran Tahir Whitehead recently for salary-cap savings. Vontaze Burfict’s now on the street, in poor standing with the league and questionable at best to return, leaving openings across the starting lineup the Raiders plan to fill from the outside this offseason.
That complete positional overhaul now is underway, with the first addition already in the fold.
Former Chicago Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski agreed on terms of a contract with the Raiders, a league source told NBC Sports Bay Area on Monday afternoon. Kwiatkoski is scheduled to earn $21 million over three years with $13.5 million in guarantees, per NFL Network. He also reportedly has $3 million in attainable guarantees.
As a reminder, players can’t formally sign contracts until Wednesday at 1 p.m. PT, when the league year begins. Pacts can be agreed upon between now and then, during a free-agent negotiating window often called legal tampering.
With the coronavirus outbreak, it’s uncertain when Kwiatkoski can come to Alameda, take a physical at the team facility and sign his deal.
Getting a commitment from a 26-year-old thumper with a bright future is a great start to this free agent period. The career reserve proved last year he has a starter’s quality. He played well after taking over the Bears middle linebacker spot in Week 10, as a physical player with sure tackling ability.
He had 51 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception last year, along with 13 total quarterback pressures.
Signing Kwiatkoski doesn’t eliminate the prospect of signing another free-agent linebacker. The Raiders have eyes locked on former Rams linebacker Cory Littleton, an ideal cover man who can do it all. His market should be strong on the open market, but the Raiders plan to be involved and seem set on making a defensive splash (or two) in free agency.
We’ll see in time exactly where Kwiatkoski fits into the lineup. He can be a super sub or a three-down player depending on other linebackers added in free agency or the NFL draft.
Kwiatkoski clearly is excited about playing for the Raiders in their new Las Vegas home. He posted this on social media shortly after agreeing on terms.