Gutierrez: Kicking Tatupu's tires fine -- what's the fit?

August 1, 2011, 10:09 pm
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Paul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.comSo reports are floating that former Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu is scheduled to visit the Raiders' training camp and while the knee-jerk reaction is he would be a great addition to Oakland's defense, you have to wonder where, exactly, he would fit in.Plus, the Raiders have more pressing needs, like locking up tight end Zach Miller, who, reportedly is visiting the Seahawks himself. Oh, that Tom Cable is a crafty coach, ain't he?But I digress.Tatupu, 28, is a three-time Pro Bowl and one-time All-Pro middle linebacker. And last time anyone checked, the Raiders already have their middle linebacker of the present and future in last year's top draft choice -- Rolando McClain.
But here's where things could get interesting, with a heavy emphasis on could. There have been rumblings all offseason of the Raiders potentially switching to a base 3-4 defense. That would make room for both McClain, who played inside in a 3-4 in college at Alabama, and Tatupu. But then what do you do with Oakland's fearsome front four of Lamarr Houston, Tommy Kelly, Richard Seymour and Matt Shaughnessy?I asked Kelly last week if the Raiders planned on staying in a 4-3 under newold defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan."Yeah, it's basically the same," Kelly said. "I mean, coach (is) going to bring a couple tweaks to it. We're going to play a lot more different schemes but, I mean, we're basically going to do what we always do -- try to get after people up front and try to make plays in the backfield."And while Tatupu is coming off arthroscopic surgery of both knees in January, it doesn't hurt the Raiders to kick the tires on another high-motor interior linebacker who led the Seahawks in tackles his first four seasons in the league.Especially if he'd be open to backing up McClain, who has been impressive early in camp, andor coming in on a reduced salary. At 6-feet, 250 pounds, he's somewhat undersized but his coverage skills leave something to be desired as a weakside linebacker. He only played in five games in 2009 due to a pectoral injury but played a full season in 2010.Whatever the case may be, the Raiders flirting with Tatupu, cut this weekend by Seattle after an 88-tackle season (his fewest in a non-injury season), should not be more of a priority than re-signing Miller.Of course, there is the thought that Oakland has to first get its in-house finances in order by re-structuring Kamerion Wilbley's 11-plus million franchise tag tender to a long-term contract to deal with its cap issues before inking Miller."We're still working," Wimbley said following Sunday's practice. "I should have something soon."