The Oakland Raiders have a talent void at linebacker, so at what point during the offseason should we expect to hear about Perry Riley’s potential return?
After Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr signed his five-year, $125 million deal, the attention shifted to a player who’s not on the roster. You’d think everyone questioned why the top three draft picks have yet to ink their rookie deals. No, instead, everyone continues to ask about linebacker Perry Riley.
Linebacker Bruce Irvin voiced his opinion following the 29-year old’s solid first year with the Silver and Black, via Pro Football Focus:
What’s the holdup, general manager Reggie McKenzie?
Well for starters, the front office will take care of offensive guard Gabe Jackson. He should average about $9.3 million per year on his new pact. Then, the draft picks will likely ink their rookie deals. There’s no urgency with the rookie contracts considering the players don’t report to training camp until July 24.
Every week, though, there’s an increased angst to re-sign Riley, who’s currently on the waiver wire. Oddly, no other team has picked him up either. Is it because the 29-year old prefers to play for the Raiders, and he’s waiting for McKenzie make a move before taking his talents elsewhere? After a quality season, maybe he’s set on a certain price tag.
Regardless of the reason, Raiders fans feel Riley would strengthen the linebacker position as a starting-caliber veteran. Through organized team activities and minicamp practices, Cory James lined up with the starters, and rookie Marquel Lee joined the second team, per NBCS Bay Area reporter Scott Bair. Ben Heeney continues a slow recovery from an ankle injury, per San Francisco Chronicle reporter Vic Tafur:
Heeney just got back on the field, and I think they just forgot to do injury settlement with Ball https://t.co/Slhw5387Um
After the draft, McKenzie didn’t tip his hand either way on re-signing Riley, per Raiders.com:
“It’s an ongoing evaluation,” McKenzie said. “We’ll see what we got coming in. We’ll have the rookie minicamp. Then, we’ll have everybody together. If we need to add someone else, we will.”
On the other hand, head coach Jack Del Rio delivered a more direct assessment of the linebacker position, per Bair.
I don’t know that we’ve adequately addressed our middle linebacker position, to be honest. I think we have some work to do there. The rest of our roster is pretty well situated, but we’ll be looking for a linebacker and we’ll continue to look, whether it’s the waiver wire, trades or available guys out there, veterans on the street. We’ll continue to look.
Unless Heeney, James or Lee completely put the coaching staff in awe through preseason, expect the Raiders to scour the waiver wire for late roster additions in August. The front office acquired Riley in October last year, which showed his ability to step onto the field and man the position on short notice.
Barring a non-disclosed handshake agreement between the 29-year old linebacker and the team, McKenzie runs the risk of missing out on a plug-in asset for the linebacker corps.
Assuming Riley remains available throughout the summer, somewhere between the second and third preseason game would be the time frame to look for his return. Otherwise, the Raiders will likely sign a late roster cut in September or put their faith in James to take a leap during his sophomore year.