ALAMEDA -- The Raiders signed veteran inside linebacker Perry Riley on Tuesday afternoon, added experienced depth to a position group that is razor thin.
Riley provides help, and the Raiders are going to need it.
They put Ben Heeney on injured reserve, which ends his season. Malcolm Smith is also banged up with a groin injury, though his playing status remains uncertain.
Cory James and Daren Bates were the only healthy bodies at the two interior linebacker spots, and Riley makes three.
The 28-year old played for Washington from 2010-15, but suffered a complicated foot injury last November that took two surgeries to get right. He was released just before the season started.
Riley’s phone was ringing this past month, but he wanted to wait for the right fit and value – certainly more than the veteran minimum -- before signing with his second NFL team.
“I had a lot of interest, but I felt like I was worth more than that,” Riley said. “I’m 28, and still have a lot of good football left in me. It’s unfortunate that I came off a serious injury that took more time, especially with an extra surgery, to heal than I planned and things went downhill.
“That said, I know I’m ready and I think I can help this team win.”
Riley has 63 starts in 79 games played, and led Washington in tackles in 2013. He had 43 tackles and two interceptions last season, before missing the final four games and a playoff contest in 2015.
Riley has a connection with someone in the locker room. He grew up with Raiders edge rusher Bruce Irvin in Atlanta; they were good friends and high school teammates. That should make the transition easier, and also couldn’t have hurt to have Irvin vouch for him.
“When my agent called and said it was the Raiders, I knew I was all in,” Riley said. “Bruce was there and the numbers were adding up right, so here I am.”
Riley says he plays the run well, and has better athleticism and speed in coverage than his critics think. That would certainly help the Raiders, who are somewhat lacking in that area.
Heeney was expected to play every snap at middle linebacker, but fell behind James a few games into the season. He struggled some early on and missed too many tackles for the Raiders’ liking.
His season came to a close with an ankle injury in Sunday’s victory over Baltimore. It’s expected to require surgical repair. He will have two years remaining on his rookie contract.