The initial surge and frenzy of the NFL free agency at the beginning of March may have subsided, but the Oakland Raiders are just getting started. Heading into free agency, general manager Reggie McKenzie understood his two main priorities, but knew that the team also needed some defensive additions at a bargain.
Upon a few weeks of scanning the market, it seems as though the Raiders have pulled the trigger on their first defensive addition of NFL free agency. Linebacker Jelani Jenkins has decided to forgo the Miami Dolphins and has agreed to a deal with the Raiders, via Scott Bair of CSNCalifornia.com:
The Raiders announce signing of LB Jelani Jenkins.
— Scott Bair (@BairCSN) March 20, 2017
The unrestricted free agent elected to sign with the Raiders after spending the first four seasons of his NFL career with the Dolphins. The fourth round selection of the 2013 NFL Draft appeared in 53 games with the Dolphins, including an injury-riddled 2016 season.
Both knee and hand injuries limited him to only nine games in 2016, but when Jenkins had a clean bill of health he was on the field. During the 2016 season (seven starts), he posted 29 tackles (14 assisted) and one pass defended.
When taking a look at the signing, it puts forth the true meaning of a gamble for McKenzie. Jenkins put together a monster 2014 season, posting a career high 110 tackles (81 solo), with 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. However, Jenkins hasn’t put together a healthy season since 2014.
If the 25-year-old can remain healthy in his role, he can emerge into one of the starting linebackers. After the departure of Malcolm Smith, the Raiders are certainly in the market to fill the void at the linebacker position.
Jenkins will join Ben Heeney and Corey James in the competition for weak side linebacker, but may very well enter the sweepstakes to fill Smith as the middle linebacker. When healthy, Jenkins has demonstrated an ability to cover receivers in passing scenarios, while being able to chase running backs from sideline to sideline.