I’m hearing a lot these days about ILB being a big draft need for the Oakland Raiders. But if they re-sign Perry Riley Jr. in free agency, it is not.
All I hear across Raider Nation these days is, “We need an inside linebacker!” Well if Reuben Foster were available at No. 24 overall, heck yeah the Oakland Raiders should take him. It might even be smart to take Zach Cunningham if he is there.
But the rest of the ILBs are graded from the second round down plus ILB doesn’t have to be a need. What the Raiders really need to do is Perry re-sign Riley Jr., who is now a free agent. He is a do-it-all ILB that helped the Raiders tighten up against the run and pass in 2016.
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The Raiders picked up Riley as a free agent in October and he was a pleasant surprise. He started 11 games in the middle of the defense and his presence made a difference. The defense was a much better unit over the second half of the season with him.
Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. once said to the media of Riley, “Just his work ethic, his passion for the game, his hunger for knowledge in coming here. You can tell that his years of experience have really helped him with the ability to come out here and play right away. You can tell he’s paying attention. … He’s a true veteran.”
Head coach Jack Del Rio, also likes him as he was the driving force behind the Raiders signing him. Then there’s OLB and childhood friend Bruce Irvin telling ESPN, “He’s a helluva player,. I knew when we got him what he was going to bring to the table—a tough, hard-nosed competitive guy who makes plays.”
Irvin is a helluva player himself but not a helluva pass rusher so he should be moving inside next to him. There’s a guy named Aldon Smith that is a helluva pass rusher coming back in 2017. That would set the Raiders up at all four LB spots this year.
So ILB doesn’t have to be a team need in this draft.