ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Should the Oakland Raiders merely kick the tires on NaVorro Bowman, who was released Friday afternoon by the San Francisco 49ers? Or should they kick the door down and not leave Bowman's house until they have him signed?
Yeah, I'm thinking the latter, same as you. Send the car to Santa Clara and bring Bowman up I-880 to the Raiders' complex. Give him a helmet, a uniform and trot him out there Sunday in what is close to a must-win situation for Oakland, which is riding a three-game losing streak and needs desperately to shore up the middle of its defense.
The Raiders have a gaping hole at middle linebacker with rookie fifth-round draft pick Marquel Lee out with an ankle injury. And while Bowman would more than fill that need, it is important to note Bowman played inside of a 3-4 base defense most of his career while the Raiders run a 4-3 base. In fact, Bowman was exposed playing in the middle of the Niners' new 4-3 scheme this season (he came off the field in passing downs when he had trouble covering running backs) and would have to accept a similar role in Oakland. At least at first.
The Raiders show hybrid defenses and are ready to trot out undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow, who was playing at Division III Greenville last season, and Tyrell Adams, who had never taken a defensive snap before this season, against the Chargers.
Plus, Cory James is also dealing with a knee issue.
"We're working on it," Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said Friday of the Raiders' mishmash plan at linebacker. "Putting it together. Cory looks like he might be able to make it, so that'll help. We're going forward with the guys we have. Prepared to go. Obviously, that's an important piece for us. I think Marquel has played well for us. We'll want him to hurry back.
"In the meantime, those other guys will get an opportunity to play."
Yes, but in the other meantime, the Raiders need to get Bowman in the building and see where he is, exactly, both physically and mentally.
Bowman and Del Rio had an animated conversation this past January at the Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards and no, we're not suggesting anything close to tampering. But how jacked would Del Rio, a former Pro Bowl linebacker himself, be to have a linebacker of Bowman's stature on his team.
Same with defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., a three-time Pro Bowl linebacker, and general manager Reggie McKenzie, who once had 17 tackles in a playoff game for the Raiders as a, yes, linebacker.
Bowman, 29, is a four-time All-Pro, a Hall of Fame talent who has obviously lost a step or two after suffering devastating injuries to his left knee (keeping him out of the entire 2014 season) and left Achilles' (ending his 2016 season after four games).
But it is a step, you could argue, the current crop of Raiders linebackers never had. And his knowledge of the game would be unparalleled in the Oakland linebacker corps. Coach on the field? You could probably throw the green communications dot on his helmet this weekend and miss nary a step.
The Raiders boast only the No. 25 run defense in the NFL. Bowman would help. The Raiders still have issues covering tight ends. Bowman could help diagnose the issue, even if he became a situational player this season for the Niners.
Bowman’s Pro Football Focus grade against the run of 70.2 is better than those of Morrow (47.3), James (47.0) and Adams (40.7), while the injured Lee (82.8) is higher.
See ball, get ball. Get better on defense. And make the Raiders' locker room take notice.
🕳👀 @NBowman53— Marquette King (@MarquetteKing) October 13, 2017
The Raiders entered Friday with $10.8 million in salary-cap space, per ESPN Stats & Information research, and while Bowman was on the market for a trade, his monster contract made that a non-starter for not just the Raiders but, obviously, 30 other NFL teams.
Hence the reason the Niners cut him and his salary-cap numbers of $9.6 million for this season, $11.99 million for 2018, $6.9 million in 2019, $10.2 million in 2020, $11.4 million in 2021 and $11.7 million in 2022.
And now, the reason he is affordable for the Raiders to sign. And, beyond finances, the Raiders need to go after him.