With the release of Kamerion Wimbley on Friday March 16th, scouts should already be looking for a replacement through the means of either free agency or the draft. At the moment, one would suspect the latter as a better option.
If they elect to find his replacement for cheap, they should look no further than from Wimbley's own alma mater, the Florida State Seminoles.
Entering the draft with the honor of being a four-year starter as a 'Nole, Nigel Bradham never put up the kind of stats that would have one in awe, but he made some noise starting his first game against bitter rival, Miami. Bradham's 2008 season ended well, he finished as the fourth-leading tackler on an explosive defense packed with playmakers.
Bradham's sophomore year saw him start all 12 games, this time exploding into the scene as the leading tackler in on the 'Noles defense with 93 solo hits. Some questioned Bradham's hands, but he did manage to pull in two interceptions.
His last year as a Seminole saw Bradham continue his success as a starter,once again earning the honors of the 'Noles tackling leader with 98 (51 of those were solo, wow!) and 5.5 tackles for losses. Finishing the season #11 in the ACC for tackles, Bradham looked to continue his success, and did. He came back for his senior season and as co-captain and once again blew up the tackling count. He lead the defense with 86 tackles (56 solo) and had a career game against the then #1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners with nine tackles and one interception from the then Heisman hopeful, Landry Jones.
With multiple decent to good linebackers leaving the Garnett and Gold, (aside from the GREAT Derrick Brooks) Bradham will enter the 2012 NFL Draft. Since having his Pro Day on the 14th of March, his draft stock has risen from a 4th to 5th candidate to a 3rd round hopeful.
This isn't a Nigel Bradham piece to tout his numbers at Florida State which are not earth-shattering. Instead, this is a piece of writing that may be a prophecy of things to come.
The Oakland Raiders are currently in seek-and-destroy mode. General Manager Reggie McKenzie and Head Coach Dennis Allen have both come to the understanding that running the fastest 40 Yard Dash simply indicates speed, not football IQ or playing ability, so they want football players, not track stars.
Why else do you think Stanford Routt and C.J. Johnson were cut?
Nigel Bradham, despite not having that AWESOME upside, is a football player. Aaron Curry? He's shown to not be highly talented as a pass rusher or a dominate run stuffer, but he's a football player and has the physical attributes to be force. Rolando McClain? He wasn't held as Nick Saban's smartest player ever coached and a 1st Round draft selection because he has a cool name, McClain has the potential to be a playmaker and Dennis Allen spoke on this.
"I see a talented football player. I see a very talented football player. I think, just like a lot of things we talked about already, we've got to do our best to make sure that we get Rolando to play to the best of his ability on every single snap. Listen, that's what the goal of any football coach is, is to try to develop and get good players. And that's what we're gonna do and that's what we're gonna strive to do with Rolando. He is a very talented player and he can make an impact on this defense."
Between Aaron Curry and Rolando McClain that is two first round selected line-backers, depending on what Allen and [Jason] Tarver decide to do with the defense, another solid outside line-backer or even an inside line-backer from Florida State would be a fine addition.
McKenzie or Allen should not be warded off by his 4.6 40, (a number would scare Al Davis, God rest his soul). Bradham has great closing speed and often takes great angles when tackling which is something the Raider defense (aside of Tyvon Branch) has struggled with, especially last season. Depending on what Bradham would be asked to play, ideally, he would be best as a weak-side linebacker, but does have the ability to play inside linebacker in a 3-4 as well as a 4-4 defense. He has shown ability to adapt and be versatile during his tenure as a 'Nole.
Aside from individual awareness, tackling is what is essential, especially as an Oakland Raider. Time and time again, teams have managed to beat Oakland with big runs which is due to linebackers not properly sealing edges and shooting gaps. Bradham can do this. One of the things he was highly recruited out of high school for was his ability to shed blocks, shoot gaps quickly and hit people in the backfield in violent manner. This aggressive nature is what is so magnetic about Bradham, especially in Silver and Black. He was born to be a Raider, especially with the now glaring hole at linebacker.
No news has broke from the Raiders camp over the defensive scheme, but many speculate a 3-4 scheme will be implemented. If that happens, Bradham and McClain could be a menacing duo with Curry and ex-starter Quentin Groves promoted back to the starting line-up playing outside. That's a fearful 4 line-backing set. Add in Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaugnessy, Oakland's front seven instantly looks lethal enough to cause teams to rethink offensive strategies.
All and all, the Raiders will probably not make any big noise in the Free Agency due to the salary cap issue. They sit at 10 million under the cap roughly which isn't exactly a lot of wiggle room, but enough to make some moves here and there. The moves to acquire ex-Ram cornerback Ron Bartell and ex-Texan right guard Mike Brisiel have been great. Now just three positions are left to be filled: Center, a right tackle and linebacker. Using the free agency to lock up offensive linemen should be a priority. A cornerback could also be added though that means if the Raiders decide to bring in Tracy Porter, but with two or three 3rd-round choices in the draft thanks to compensatory picks, there's no risk in gambling on Bradham to beef up the line-backing core.
A lot was hanging in the balance as far as Wimbley's contract situation. With the news Wimbley was cut from the roster, this opens up a big hole in the position. Bradham is shining and should not be overlooked, it is encouraged that you check out his body of work. With a need of sure tacklers, Bradham fills that need and also provides the ability to create big plays with explosive tenacity. Hopefully Bradham's career begins as a Raider as they move into a new era.
The Era of Reclaiming Lost Glory.