The 2019 regular season is officially in the books, and while we're already looking ahead to the 2020 offseason, let's take some time to look back at the Raiders' roster, position by position, to see what the new year could hold for the Silver and Black.
Next up, the linebackers.
When Paul Guenther's defense took the field for the regular season opener against the Denver Broncos, his trio of starting linebackers were Tahir Whitehead, Vontaze Burfict, and Marquel Lee.
Fast forward to Week 17, and Whitehead was the only holdover from Week 1, as Will Compton and Kyle Wilber joined him in the regular season finale.
In fact, much like many other position groups on the Raiders' roster from 2019, there were no shortage of faces that filled the linebackers' room. From old friends like Whitehead, Lee, and Nicholas Morrow, to late additions (Compton) and guys previously seen primarily on special teams (Wilber), David Lippincott saw his fair share of players in 2019.
Through it all, Whitehead was once again the team's consistent presence in the linebacking corps; he started all 16 games for the Silver and Black, and his 108 total tackles were good for a team-high in 2019.
Morrow also appeared in every game last year – the third time he's done that in his young career – and enjoyed a quality campaign, totaling 67 tackles, as well as his first career interception.
Compton – who was signed to the active roster in late-October – really came into his own over the final month of the season, and was incredibly productive to boot, finishing with 39 tackles, a majority of those which came after he took over a starting role Week 14.
In terms of Marquel Lee, after a very nice sophomore campaign in 2018, the athletic linebacker just couldn't shake the injury bug in 2019; he appeared in just five games, and actually had two stints on the reserve/injured list before all was said and done.
Before his season was prematurely ended, Burfict also played well, finishing his abbreviated campaign with 18 tackles.
Number to Know:
Four hundred seventy-six.
That's the number of tackles that Tahir Whitehead has totaled since 2016, the fourth-highest mark in the league since that time.
Plain and simple, the man produces when he's on the field.
Vontaze Burfict – Unrestricted Free Agent
Will Compton – Unrestricted Free Agent
Ukeme Eligwe – Under Contract
Marquel Lee – Under Contract
Nicholas Morrow – Restricted Free Agent
Tahir Whitehead – Under Contract
Kyle Wilber – Unrestricted Free Agent
A quick glance at the impending free agents in the Raiders' linebacking corps, and it's clear that David Lippincott's group could look a lot different in 2020.
For starters, the only player who had any type of consequential playing time in 2019 that's still under contract is Tahir Whitehead, which means that there are a lot of decisions to be made in the coming months.
Will Compton came in over the final month of the season and certainly made an impact for the defense, but he's scheduled to become a free agent in March, meaning Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock need to decide what they want to do with the 30-year-old linebacker.
Another big offseason question will surround the future of Vontaze Burfict, as his questionable season-long suspension has technically been lifted, and he's free to return to work for any NFL team that chooses to employ him.
It seems like it was eons ago now, but before his season was abruptly cut short after just four games, Burfict was actually playing a pretty quality brand of football, and very much looked the part of a starting, NFL middle linebacker.
Now, with two first-round draft picks in the 2020 draft, could Gruden and Mayock be intrigued enough by a young guy to snag him at either No. 12 or No. 19? Time will tell, but I'm sure that the "experts" will have no shortage of linebackers connected to the Silver and Black in the coming months.
From players currently on the roster, to the intrigue that the draft will bring, the state of the 2020 Raiders' linebackers is going to be a fluid situation from now until training camp.
Position Group MVP:
While Will Compton made an intriguing case for himself over the final stretch of the season, Tahir Whitehead has to get the nod on this one.
Not only did Whitehead start in all 16 games (the best ability is availability), he led the team in tackles, and also was flexible enough to change his role on Paul Guenther's defense throughout the season.
Throw in the fact that he was the team's Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee for his incredible efforts off the field, and No. 59 was the cream of the crop in terms of Raiders' linebackers in 2019.
Take a look at the best gameday entertainment moments from the Raiders' 2019 season.