Earlier this afternoon, Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain was sentenced to 180 days in jail on charges of assault, reckless endangerment, menacing and wrongful discharge by a Decatur (Ala.) Municipal Court judge, according to The Associated Press.
These charges stemmed from an incident that occurred on November 30, 2011 when the victim, Richard Tapscott, claimed McClain threatened to kill him and fired a bullet next to his ear. McClain will miss the entire 2012 NFL season as his sentence is scheduled to begin June 1.
To make matters worse, assuming McClain's attorneys are able to delay or reduce the sentence, he is still facing a suspension from the NFL for violation of the league's personal conduct policy. The issue at hand for the Oakland Raiders becomes: who steps in to fill his potential void? The answer may be in house, but I also think there is someone the Raiders could sign if McClain will not be available.
Their first option could be Travis Goethel. A player that former Raiders defensive coordinator John Marshall was high on, Goethel missed all of the 2011 season with a torn knee ligament. Goethel was making strides in 2010 until a back injury sidelined him for the second half of that season. He is a heady, aggressive player, but will not have any advantages with the new regime and his injuries are cause for concern.
Option two could be Aaron Curry. Expected to play the middle linebacker spot out of college, Curry played the Will (weak side) position for the Raiders after being acquired in 2011. He is much more suited for the Sam (strong side) position, but also has experience in the middle. This is even more valuable when the Raiders run a 34 hybrid or go to a Nickel package.
The third and certainly most intriguing option in house is seventh round draft choice Nathan Stupar. He stated in his first media interview as a Raider that he was drafted by the team to get "right in there and getting some action at the middle."
While he may not be as ready, the upside appears to be there and Stupar could be a benefit alongside another inside linebacker in a 34.
The final option, in my opinion, is a free agent like Gary Brackett. Brackett fits the mold of what the Raiders are trying to do defensively: he is versatile, smart and plays with his head as much as he does with his body. At this point, signing him would be low risk and he brings character and a winning attitude to a defense that needs true leadership.
He missed much of 2011 with a shoulder injury, but appears to be close to 100 percent at this point. I honestly think Brackett would be an upgrade over the McClain the Raiders have seen in his first two years.
In the final analysis, I hope that McClain the person is able to get his personal problems dealt with. There is always a chance he may not actually miss much time at all this upcoming season. But his poor decision-making actually presents the Raiders with the ability to move away from him if the new coaches do not see him as part of the plans going forward.
Middle linebacker has not been a real position of strength for the Raiders since the days of Matt Millen and Bob Nelson inside. The opportunity to bring in someone to truly be an extension of coaches Allen and Tarver could help springboard the Raiders defense moving forward.
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