The Raiders added to their thin linebacker corps with the free agent signing of outside linebacker Philip Wheeler, Friday. Wheeler is projected to immediately start alongside Aaron Curry and Rolando McClain in a base 4-3 defense.
Last season, Wheeler played in 13 games and had 80 total tackles and a sack. As it stands, he would be Kamerion Wimbley's replacement on the strong side. While Wheeler is not the pass-rusher Wimbley is, he plays the run better. Wheeler's deal is for one year with the salary undisclosed.
Earlier in the day, the Raiders acquired running back Mike Goodson from the Carolina Panthers in exchange for 2010 fourth round pick Bruce Campbell. Goodson is expected to fill the void left by special team standout Rock Cartwright's departure and could potentially spell Darren McFadden at running back.
Last year, Goodson did not have any carries and only caught one pass for four yards. However, he did have 762 total yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in 2010. He has troubles with fumbling, but can play on all the special teams, including as a returner.
The trade of Campbell signifies the McKenzie/Allen regime giving up on a player some deemed to be a first-round talent out of the University of Maryland. However, Campbell was never able to beat out Khalif Barnes or Cooper Carlisle for one of the starting sports on the right side of the offensive line.
Ultimately, these moves signify the further organizational shift by Raider management away from the speed and athleticism-first approach of the late Al Davis to more value on intangibles and football acumen a player possesses.
While Wheeler is a solid player, there is no reason to believe the Raiders will not continue to prioritize the linebacker spot with their picks in the draft. However, I feel that this addition could impact when a linebacker is taken. I still feel that corner back and nose tackle are also pressing areas, especially if the Raiders attempt to at least implement a hybrid 3-4 style on defense.