The Oakland Raiders have a number of different needs, but one of the most pressing is at middle linebacker. Last season, the Raiders were forced to go with Miles Burris, an outside linebacker who’s a backup … at best. That’s because their starter, Nick Roach, missed the season due to a concussion he suffered in the preseason. Now that it appears Roach may have to hang up his cleats for good, the Raiders go from a bad situation to a terrible one.
Oh, what luck. Their neighbors in the South Bay, the San Francisco 49ers, may be able to help. According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, the Niners are looking to trade inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite for a sixth or seventh round draft pick. Wilhoite joined the Niners as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and played primarily in special teams coverage and backup linebacker until 2014, when he was asked to step into a starting role due to Navarro Bowman’s gruesome knee injury in the NFC Championship Game in Seattle.
Now that Bowman is back and the Niners have discovered that they have a pretty darned good backup in Chris Borland, Wilhoite has become expendable. But while he was filling in for Bowman, Wilhoite played better than many expected. He showed that he has the ability to be a good backup and even a possible starter for some teams.
The Raiders need all of the help they can get at middle linebacker and Wilhoite would be a step in the right direction at a relatively cheap price. If you told a general manager that with their sixth or seventh round pick, they would be guaranteed a guy who at the very least is a quality special teams player and backup with the possibility of being a starter, most would jump at the idea. The Raiders cannot just get him and consider the middle linebacker position taken care of, but grabbing him and either another free agent or a draft pick would go a long way toward solidifying one of the weakest spots on the roster.
Worst-case scenario, Wilhoite is beaten out for the job and the Raiders end up with a backup who is game-tested and ready to start if called upon. The Raiders need to add big-ticket players this offseason, but they cannot ignore the massive need for depth throughout the roster. Reggie McKenzie may not love giving up draft picks unless it’s to get a bad quarterback, but Wilhoite is one who’d be worth the trade.