It looks like the Oakland Raiders have their starting strongside linebacker.
In signing Philip Wheeler, Oakland has addressed its last starting spot. Considered a player who has yet to reach his full potential, Wheeler is more of a run stopper than a pass-rusher. He had one sack last season. The linebacker position was slow in free agency as a whole and Wheeler didn’t generate much interest. He visited Miami as well as Oakland.
Wheeler replaced the released Kamerion Wimbley, who had strong pass-rushing ability. He had 16 sacks in two seasons in Oakland.
Wheeler had 84 tackles last season in 11 starts. He has just 24 starts in four NFL seasons. Thus, Oakland must hope he can adjust to being a full-time starter.
I would think the position will still be a priority early in the draft. However, signing Wheeler opposed to taking a chance on a rookie taken later in the third round to start immediately was the right course of action by the Raiders.
“We’re excited to add another veteran to complement our talented linebacking group,” Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie said in a statement released by the team. “He gives us a lot of athleticism and versatility. He’s a player that can do a lot of things.”
With limited cap room, the Raiders probably will not do too much more in terms of signing players until after the draft, although if it sees a bargain such as Wheeler perhaps it will pounce.