The Oakland Raiders traded a third round pick for linebacker Kamerion Wimbley yesterday in their first major acquisition of the offseason.
There is little doubt that Oakland needed help at linebacker, or that they got good value in the trade, but the move itself raises some important questions as to where the Raiders are going defensively in the coming season.
The first question is how they plan to use him. Wimbley was a defensive end in college, but since he was drafted he has been an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Given that the Raiders already have a very similar player in Trevor Scott, is Oakland looking to switch to a 3-4 defense this year?
You can see that there are some pieces in place for them to do that, with Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, and Trevor Scott, but it would leave them needing to acquire a nose tackle in free agency or the draft to make it work.
My guess is that Wimbley will be used as a defensive end for passing situations in a 4-3 defense.
If the Raiders were to switch to a 3-4, it would mean second-year end Matt Shaughnessy would be almost redundant, as he is clearly suited to the 4-3. The Raiders have been talking up Shaughnessy since the release of Greg Ellis, and indeed Shaughnessy’s excellent play in relief of Ellis last year may have made them feel more comfortable releasing the ex-Cowboy.
The question will be answered in the coming weeks and in the draft, as the players drafted, traded, or picked up in free agency will fit one system or the other.
As the pieces are added or subtracted, intentions will become clear.
Wimbley has shown some ability as a pass rusher, with 11.5 sacks as a rookie and 6.5 last year. In a league that has become more based on success in the passing game than the run over the years, generating a pass rush and getting to the quarterback has become even more important.
Clearly the Raiders have an idea of how Wimbley fits into their defensive strategy, as value for money or not, a third round pick is a lot to give up otherwise.
No doubt there is some hope that they can recoup that third round pick they gave up to Cleveland if they can get another team to bite on Kirk Morrison, who has an original selection tender, meaning any team signing him would have to compensate Oakland with a third round selection.
In other news, ex-Broncos linebacker Andra Davis is taking a physical in Buffalo, meaning a deal is likely already done. The Raiders were rumored to be very interested in Davis, who was a strong run defender. They likely saw Davis as a two-down run defender.
But if they were looking to address the middle linebacker position through free agency, then they were likely not looking that way in the first round of the draft.