When the Oakland Raiders drafted Khalil Mack, it was assumed one of last years starting linebackers was going to lose their job. Sio Moore, who started the majority of the season at strongside linebacker, looked to be the odd man out with Mack sliding into that starting role.
But as OTAs and minicamps began, Moore ran with the first team defense due to Kevin Burnett, last years weakside linebacker who started 16 games, sitting out. Burnett doesn’t have any concerning reason to be sitting out. He had a productive year as one of the few bright spots on the Raiders defense. He is also due $3 million in 2014, a reasonable price for his age and production.
However, while Burnett trains at home, Moore is in his spot with the team, putting on a show for the coaches. Moore made 49 tackles, 5 sacks, and one forced dumble last season, while excelling vs the run and pass. His versatile skillset, combined with his age and cheap contract could lead to Burnett’s release if the coaching staff chooses so.
The team will likely keep both around, as Burnett is still a valuable contributor and veteran presence. Having them both also allows for the team to play in 3-4 base sets with Moore and Mack on the outside and Burnett and Nick Roach on the inside.
However, Burnett is only under contract for one more year, and this new wrinkle should make it easy for the team to move on from him come next offseason.
In addition, if Burnett doesn’t play lights out when he returns to the team for training camp, Moore will easily take the job, which could lead to Burnett’s release to save cap room and allow for younger talent to flourish.
Moore is one of the few picks so far of Reggie McKenzie to meaningfully contribute, and the coaching staff wants to get him on the field. With Mack taking his original spot, its only reasonable for him to take Burnett’s. No matter which combination of linebackers takes the field in Week 1, they will likely carry on their consistent play that saw them be the backbone of last year’s tragic defense.