Will Gruden lure Mychal Kendricks to Oakland?

As GM Reggie McKenzie and coach Jon Gruden said during a conference call with season-ticket holders last week, the Raiders aren’t finished hitting the waiver wire for players. 

When the Philadelphia Eagles released linebacker Mychal Kendricks last week — saving around $4.5 million against the salary cap — the second-round pick in the 2012 draft caught the eye of the Oakland Raiders. The 6-foot, 240-pound linebacker was scheduled to visit the Raiders in Alameda, Calif., this week after meeting with the Vikings, where his brother, Eric, plays, but left Minnesota without signing.

Kendricks oakland raiders

Could Gruden be the secret weapon in luring Kendricks to Oakland?

After starting 15 games for Philadelphia his rookie season,  Kendricks seemingly didn’t fit into the Eagles’ plans once defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz took over prior to the 2016 season. After starting just eight of the 13 games he played in 2016, he saw his snap count drop from 628 to 273 last season. The lack of playing time, coupled with his massive cap hit, led to his release.

The Eagles’ loss could be the Raiders’ gain. Head coach Jon Gruden has an intense, yet charismatic personality, and has had great success in luring free agents. The 27-year old Kendricks would be one of the biggest acquisitions of the offseason. Despite his lack of playing time in Philadelphia, Kendricks would be one of Oakland’s best linebackers. He can certainly still play.

Kendricks put up 24 reps on the bench press at the combine, and that strength showed up here. He does a great job of filling the gap and meeting the running back in the hole. The best part of this play is what happens after he makes contact — the running back goes backward.

That could be the difference between a first down or forcing a team to punt in third-and-short situations. It is even more important in goal-line situations like this one. Kendricks has proven to be a solid tackler with 77 in his 15 games. Pairing him with Derek Johnson and Tahir Whitehead would give defensive coordinator Paul Guenther a good group of linebackers for his 4-3 base sets.

Of course, NFL defenses have been playing nickel packages on more than 75 percent of their snaps for a few years. Kendricks would fit into that role, as well.

On this play, Kendricks does a great job of maintaining his outside leverage. As his guy breaks into his route, he keeps his eyes in the backfield and breaks on the pass. His deflection almost results in an interception. Kendricks plays well in coverage, as his nine pass breakups last season attest. Former Oakland cornerback TJ Carrie was the only Raider to match that number.

Gruden is a coach players want to play for. As Kendricks weighs his options, Raiders fans can only hope the California sun and the head coach’s infectious energy are enough to lure this talented player to Oakland.