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Raiders’ free agency preview: Looking for linebackers in all the wrong places

ALAMEDA — Some of you reading this may not have been alive the last time the Raiders had a menacing middle linebacker.
With apologies to Oakland-born Kirk Morrison, Jon Gruden said last season the most recent one he can remember is Greg Biekert, who played for the Raiders from 1993-2001.
Their current top three linebackers are Tahir Whitehead, Marquel Lee and Nicholas Morrow. Yeah, that won’t scare anybody. All three will be back with the Raiders, along with promising second-year linebacker Jason Cabinda, but don’t be surprised if the Raiders bolster their linebacking corps in the draft as early as the 24th pick.
Whitehead leads the current crop, and he was terrible defending the pass last year. This unit also contributed to the Raiders’ 30th-ranked run defense, which allowed 140.6 rushing yards per game.
While adding Antonio Brown is nice, it means nothing if you can’t stop anyone. And if Gruden wants to keep up with the Chiefs and other offensive powerhouses in the AFC the Raiders are so far behind, the center of their defense needs help.
Who’s here: Jason Cabinda (OLB), Marquel Lee (MLB), Nicholas Morrow (OLB, Tahir Whitehead (OLB), Kyle Wilbur (OLB), Cayson Collins (OLB).
The linebacker market

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C.J. Moseley, Baltimore: A Pro Bowl player four times in five seasons, Moseley has broken 100 tackles in every season except for one when he missed two games due to injury. Instinctual at plugging gaps and working inside and good mobility at 6-2, 250. Will get paid big — or as big as an inside linebacker gets these days.
Jordan Hicks, Philadelphia: Has been good clean-up defender against the run despite being relatively undersized at 6-1, 236. Had best season in 2016 when he started all 16 games and had 11 passes defensed and five interceptions. Still only 26, so shouldn’t have to wait long.
Mark Barron, L.A. Rams: Plays with abandon on game day but at 6-2, 230 has played a lot of snaps and was often not healthy enough to practice and could be an ‘old’ 29 in terms of age. Played 12 games last season and was released to clear cap space
Brandon Marshall, Denver: Played in 11 games with seven starts last season after being a 16-game starter in 2017. Marshall (6-1, 250) signed a four-year deal worth $32 million after Super Bowl in following 2016 seaon, but slowed by knee and foot injuries. Was scheduled to make $6.5 million this season before release.
Others: Manti Te’o (New Orleans), Stephone Anthony (Miami), Gerald Hodges (Arizona), Preston Brown: (Cincinnati).
Anthony Barr, Minnesota: Versatile player at 6-5, 255 who could probably have more of a pass rush punch if given a chance. Reportedly headed to the Jets, Barr has been starter ever since arriving from UCLA as a first-round pick in 2014. Has 22 passes defensed and seven career forced fumbles for Vikings.
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K.J. Wright, Seattle: A durable, dependable linebacker who can run (6-4, 246) and was an underrated part of some very good Seahawks defenses. Just 11 1/2 sacks but 33 career passes defensed and 10 forced fumbles.
Jamie Collins, Cleveland: A 16-game starter for the Browns last season with 104 tackles, 70 unassisted, and four sacks. At 6-3, 250, Colllins never developed into the star it appeared he would be from 2013 to 2016 in New England but a serviceable player.
Shaquil Barrett, Denver: Played in 13 games with no starts for Denver after starting nine times in 2017. Three sacks last season and 14 in his career at 6-2, 250. Still only 26 years old. If recovered from a hip injury, could compete to start somewhere with high energy.
Others: Derrick Morgan (Tennessee), Clay Matthews (Green Bay).

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