ALAMEDA, Calif. – After failing to sign linebacker Navarro Bowman, the Oakland Raiders did sign a linebacker today – former Kansas City Chiefs middle linebacker Derrick Johnson.
As first reported by Mike Silver of NFL Network, Johnson, 35, becomes the immediate favorite to start at inside linebacker. The position has been in flux for the Raiders and comes on the heels of news that linebacker Cory James had been been waived with a failed physical designation.
With Johnson now in the fold, the door appears all but closed on a Bowman return. Bowman was signed last season and helped the Raiders beat the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football, in his first game. he brought to last year’s disappointing 6-10 Raiders team much needed stability and leadership at the position.
Despite his age (he will be 36 this fall), Johnson has some quality game left in his legs. He had an improved pass coverage grade last season and can still bring the heat in the gap. Even in his current state, he is the best inside linebacker on the Oakland roster. Very much a lunch pail type player, his maturity and even-keel will be a steadying influence in the locker room and he could serve as a great mentor to rookie linebacker Azeem Victor.
Victor, who had off-the-field issues last year entering rehab for marijuana, could use the leadership guidance and coaching a player like Johnson brings. Still, it’s clear his signing is a stop gap move.
Johnson wasn’t the only linebacker signed by the Raiders today. Undrafted free agent Jason Cabinda, from Penn State, also signed with the team today. The inside linebacker position will continue to be a spot where the team will look to improve.