While outside linebacker was the Oakland Raiders best position last season, middle linebacker is a complete question mark. Omar Gaither came to the team in the second half of the year and ended up starting the last four games because former first round pick Rolando McClain was suspended then inactive. With Gaither set to become an unrestricted free agent and McClain a possible cut victim due to his immaturity, the Raiders may have no middle linebacker on the current roster.
When McClain was suspended by head coach Dennis Allen for two games for conduct detrimental to the team, it seemed like it would be the last the Raiders would see of their former eighth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. However, the team did not cut McClain and allowed him to come back to practice, but when game time came, they made him inactive. He ended up starting nine games in 2012, generating 60 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. Prior to the suspension, the Raiders had replaced McClain on third down due to his suspect pass coverage. It all seems to be leading to a McClain release, but the Raiders have not done so. If they do, they will take a substantial salary cap hit. McClain is scheduled to make over 4 million in base salary next season and 2.67 million in bonuses. Add the 585,000 more as a cap hit and McClain would be 7.26 million dollars in dead money if cut, which would count against the salary cap.
Gaither was signed by the Raiders on November 4th of last season. Once the McClain drama hit, he was thrust into the starting role and held his own. He started the final four games of the season and played in a total of seven. He racked up 14 tackles, two for loss. Gaither is still young at 28 years old and the Raiders may want to bring him back, but more as a special teamer and back-up. First the Raiders will have to make a decision on McClain, then figure out whether or not to make a pitch for Gaither to return.
Since neither Gaither nor McClain are a sure thing to return for the 2013 season, the Raiders may need to address middle linebacker in the NFL Draft or free agency. Another option would be to slide Miles Burris to middle linebacker. Any way the Raiders decide to rectify the situations, there will be work to do.
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