ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP)The Las Vegas Raiders had a busy day in free agency Tuesday, agreeing on a three-year contract with linebacker Cory Littleton, a one-year deal with veteran tight end Jason Witten and also agreeing to deals with three other defensive players.
Littleton’s addition is the most significant, providing the team the type of linebacker who has been missing in recent seasons.
A person familiar with the contract says the sides came to agreement on the deal Tuesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract can’t be signed until the start of the new league year on Wednesday. NFL Network reported the contract is worth up to $36 million.
Littleton is the second big free agent addition at linebacker for the Raiders, who have had a revolving door at the position in recent years. A second person said on condition of anonymity Monday that the team also agreed to a three-year deal with former Chicago linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski.
The Raiders also agreed to a one-year deal with veteran tight end Jason Witten, according to a person familiar with the deal speaking on condition of anonymity because it can’t be announced until Wednesday.
Then later Tuesday, two other people familiar with the deals say the team has agreed to contracts with defensive tackle Maliek Collins, safety Jeff Heath and defensive end Carl Nassib. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the deals can’t be finalized until the start of the league year.
The Raiders entered free agency with only one linebacker who started a game last year under contract in Marquel Lee. They have spent years trying to fill the position with mostly lower-round draft picks and bargain free agents.
Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock are investing heavily in the position this offseason with two major additions to open free agency.
Littleton is one of the best coverage linebackers in the league with the ability to match up with tight ends and running backs. Littleton’s 26 passes defensed are the most of any linebacker in the NFL over the past three seasons, according to SportRadar.
The 26-year-old Littleton joined the Rams as an undrafted free agent out of Washington in 2016. After playing mostly on special teams his first two seasons, Littleton became a fixture on the defense in 2018. He started all 32 games the past two years with 259 tackles, 22 passes defensed, five interceptions, two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, 7 1/2 sacks and 15 tackles for loss.
Witten, who turns 38 in May, will team up with the coach he once replaced in the ”Monday Night Football” announcing booth. Witten retired from the NFL following the 2017 season to take a job as an analyst for ESPN after Gruden left the broadcast booth to return to the Raiders.
Witten changed course a year later and returned to the Dallas Cowboys. He had 63 catches for 529 yards and four TDs last season. He has 1,215 catches for 12,977 yards and 72 TDs in 16 seasons with Dallas. He will provide depth behind starter Darren Waller on the Raiders.
Collins fills a big hole at defensive tackle for the Raiders. He had four sacks and 10 quarterback hits last season for Dallas and will give an immediate boost to the interior pressure.
Nassib had 12 1/2 sacks the past two seasons for Tampa Bay and provides help on the edge.
Heath provides another option at safety for the Raiders to team with Johnathan Abram. Heath started 44 games the past three seasons for Dallas. He had four interceptions and 17 passes defensed.
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