After Nick Roach’s first season wearing silver and black, the Raiders considered themselves set at middle linebacker. Roach played every defensive snap in 2013 while leading the team with 112 tackles and had 5.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception. He became a universally-respected defensive signal caller and, with three years left on a reasonably-priced contract, should’ve been a longer-term fixture on a team with few of them.
The plan went awry last preseason, when Roach suffered a serious concussion, maybe more than one during an exhibition at the Green Bay Packers. He missed the entire 2014 season and still hasn’t been cleared to resume football activities.
The Raiders were caught unprepared last season, forced to enlist Miles Burris into full-time duty. Considering pessimism surrounding Roach’s status, the Raiders will enter 2015 with a solid plan.
They’ll look for a middle linebacker in free agency or the draft. Here are a some options the Raiders might consider this offseason.
Brandon Spikes (Buffalo Bills): The 27-year old is a solid run defender, but not much of a threat on passing downs. Could be part of a solid rotation.
Ray Maualuga (Cincinnati Bengals): A player in the Spikes mold, but could bring a physical presence to the defense.
Mason Foster (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): A relatively local product from Seaside -- could be an every-down option.
Nate Irving (Denver Broncos): Has experience working with Jack Del Rio when he was defensive coordinator in Denver. He’s a versatile player (as Roach is) who can play multiple spots and may be relatively affordable coming off injury.
David Harris (NY Jets): He’s been a 3-4 inside linebacker his entire pro career, and should be coveted even at 31 years old.
Denzel Perryman (Miami): He’s drawn comparisons to London Fletcher, an excellent MLB for Washington. The Raiders would have to spend a second or third round pick to get him.
Benardrick McKinney (Mississippi State): Expected to be a third-round pick, McKinney has decent range and can track down skill players with good lateral movement.
Stephone Anthony (Clemson): He’s projected as a fourth round pick, someone who could be an option against the run and pass, especially in short zone coverage.