Whoa, Whoa, Whoa—TIMEOUT, SLOW DOWN, AND RELAX!!! Let's just wait right there, hold on to your horses, back that bandwagon up a tiny bit and think about this for a second.
The last time the Oakland Raiders drafted out of this position their choice was Michael Huff, the safety from the University of Texas. Many feel it was a questionable pick—at the very least—with various positions that needed to be addressed at the time, and the fact they could have probably traded down a few slots and still got Huff if they had their hearts set on him.
Although I would not label Huff anyhere near a bust, he has not yet developed into the defensive playmaker the team thought the talented and athletic young man would be.
Hopefully the acquisition of a true professional like Gibril Wilson to mentor the defensive backfield, lead with his tremendous work ethic and smashmouth bring-it-every-play mentality, will help inspire all the young players to practice, and play, to their full potential. There were reports all season long of the fact that Michael Huff was like a shadow to Wilson on and off the practice field, and put a very real effort in trying to learn from the veterans leadership.
This leads me to present the following scenario for you to mull over and think about as to whether it would improve the Raiders lagging run defense, as well as the leadership and locker room mentality.
First let me say this: re-signing, or franchising, Asomugha, that should not even be a consideration or something that needs even two seconds of actual thought. Whatever it takes, however it takes, he HAS to be brought back—and hopefully with a long term contract. So I will be going on a premise that he will still be wearing Silver & Black.
Going with the idea we are young, solid, and improving in the defensive backfield; and with Derrick Burgess, Tommy Kelly, Gerrard Warren, Terdell Sands, and the emergence of Jay Richardson, it seems like there is the talent there for the defensive line to start to control the line of scrimmage.
Which brings me to what has been a problem area for what seems like many, many years for the Oakland Raiders defense: impact and dominant linebackers.
It seems like many of the recent defenses who have been effective in controlling and affecting the outcome of the game—like Baltimore, Chicago, New England and Tampa Bay—have had a a core of linebackers who were the heart, soul, and motor for squad. The Giants defensive line was awesome in the Super Bowl, but remember what Antonio Pierce did from his linebacking position through the playoffs?
This is what came to my mind when I thought about what I would like to see the Raiders do to address the linebacking position for next year.
Ray Lewis is an unrestricted free agent available to sign next year. Oakland and Al Davis are know for throwing huge money at aging veterans with Lewis' resume to come to the Bay for a 2-4 year finale to their careers. This has worked out both positively and negatively for the organization through the years—and whenever it does work out, it normally means a visit to the Super Bowl.
The Raiders—and by that, I mean Al Davis—could offer Lewis enough money to entice him out here, while making it unfeasible for Baltimore or anyone else to sensibly match the offer. He has done it before for players of lesser caliber and lower credentials, and Lewis is the type of player Al will bend over backwards for.
The leadership aspect and team attitude adjustment alone justifies the move, and I think if Ray Lewis were to consider leaving the Ravens, it would be to a team with the history, fan base, and young talent that the Raiders do. I think it would appeal to his mentality to come to Oakland and help restore the winning tradition the Raiders have always had until these past six seasons.
That would put an exclamation point on his Hall of Fame career.
Now, when the draft comes around and the number seven slot is about to be chosen, the Raiders can consider drafting USC linebacker Rey Maualuga a few spots early to tandem up with the other Ray, the best teacher and mentor a young defensive player could ever have. That would add another top ten talent to a defense that is loaded and just looking for the right scheme, and coordinator, to take advantage of it, and use them correctly—Romeo, o' Romeo, where for art thou Romeo!
Anyone who has seen this guy terrorize and dominate the college football scene for the past three years for USC has seen the qualities displayed that are lacking at the position for the Raiders.
While Morrison and Howard are emerging players with potential growth who would only get better with the addition of two playmakers to help them out, there doesn't seem to be a leader in the linebacking core, or the defense for that matter. Ray Lewis would be that leader, and Rey Maualuga would be there for him to pass the torch to over to.
You just get the sense that Maualuga is a natural born leader that seems to always play big in the most important games, and has instincts that you cannot teach but are instilled within. Pair that up with a couple of seasons under the wing of one of the best ever to play that position and you have an up and coming future superstar that has been taught the right approach to the game.
I don't know about you, but it excites me to think about watching those two play together for the next couple of years and the REAL difference they would make in regards to the atmosphere around the facility.
And if there is a REAL leader for the defense, and a change at defensive coordinator, other key free agents might be excited enough by the prospect of joining a young and hungry defense on the way up the league's ladder, and want to be a part of The Silver & Black resurrection.
Heck, they might not even have to overpay them to come here. What a concept!!!
Obviously, there is a gap that could best be described as a "Black Hole" in the front office under the disguise of a General Manager job vacancy. And the coaching carousel for the staff has just begun to get cranked up. I think there are quite a few of us that hope Coach Cable isn't on it, and Greg Knapp and Rob Ryan are, but those are subjects for a completely different conversation.
For now, while I sit up here in the Great Northwest, shoveling snow, picking the icicles off my Raiders Fan Parking sign in my driveway, and forlornly counting down the days as the time I live for as a sports fan dwindles down to it's last few games, I have found great comfort in immersing myself with the unlikely vision that there could be a Ray-Rey light of hope for The Nation, and next years version of The Silver & Black defense!!!
Call me a dreamer, but what else is there to do in two feet of snow, 12-degree weather, and your team is not in the playoffs—AGAIN!?
Did the last six years REALLY happen, or have I been trapped in some recycled nightmare???