Raiders Free Agent Targets: Not a lot available at MLB

Without a doubt, one of the biggest needs on defense for the Oakland Raiders is at the middle linebacker position. Perry Riley came in mid season and turned an embarrassing situation into a bearable one, but isn’t the long term answer. But at the same time, while Riley isn’t the long term answer, the idea of having him as the starter for one more season if they can’t find an upgrade isn’t terrible. It’s not desirable either but it’s not like when the Raiders had Curtis Lofton or Ben Heeney at MLB.

And the Raiders just might need to stick it out with Riley one more year if they can’t find someone in the draft because the free agent market is pretty thin. Here’s a look at what’s available:

Dont’a Hightower

Donta Hightower is the cream of the crop for this free agent class when it comes to middle linebackers. Coming off of a Super Bowl win, Hightower will be nearly impossible for the Raiders to land. Even if the Patriots fail to re-sign him and he tests the free agent market, other teams are bound to offer huge contracts for basically the only really good MLB on the market. He would be an instant upgrade and make this Raiders defenses leaps and bounds better. But with the focus of the offseason being Derek Carr and his contract extension, a big time signing like this one seems highly unlikely.

Zach Brown

I want to like Zach Brown as an option for the Raiders but something I heard on one of the MMQB podcasts has me pretty hesitant. Andy Benoit compared Brown to Malcolm Smith as a guy who’s incredibly athletic but isn’t all that great turning the athleticism into success on the field. I think Brown is much better than Smith, but I understand Benoit’s concern. He is one of those guys who’s play doesn’t quite match his potential because of that athleticism. That being said, if for some reason there isn’t a huge market for Brown and he’s forced to take a short term prove it style deal, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Oakland to consider him.

Kevin Minter

 At this point, you’re getting to a level where Perry Riley might actually be a better option. Minter was a pretty big disappointment for most of his career but played a bit better this past season. Of course, that immediately makes you wonder whether or not his improved play this season was due to the fact that he was about to be a free agent. Plus, he played in a base 3-4 in Arizona and while the Raiders show a 3-4 front, they more often use a more traditional MLB role. Either way, there’s a big risk here without a huge potential for reward. If the Raiders can’t get Hightower and aren’t interested in Brown, they should just stick with Riley over Minter.

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