Gutierrez: Would Morrison or Tatupu fit Raiders' bill?

August 24, 2011, 8:44 am
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Aug. 24, 2011GUTIERREZ ARCHIVE
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Paul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.comDeep in the bowels of Jacksonville's EverBank Field last Dec. 12, Jaguars middle linebacker Kirk Morrison was engaged in light conversation with a Bay Area reporter.Morrison, after all, grew up in Oakland and spent the first five years of his NFL career with the Raiders before being dealt to Jacksonville in a draft weekend trade. So some catching up was in order.
Until Morrison spied a familiar figure down the hall. It was Raiders owner Al Davis being escorted out of the building and Morrison broke into a sprint, as if he was chasing down Darren McFadden from behind. Morrison, who had wracked up a game-high seven tackles against the Raiders that day, had to pay his respects to Davis.More than eight months later, could Morrison, who is an unemployed free agent, again be chasing Davis, or vice-versa? Or is former Seattle All-Pro middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu a better fit? Both entered the NFL in 2005.With second-year pro Travis Goethel likely lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in Monday's practice, the Raiders are in the market for a linebacker to back up Rolando McClain in the middle, as well as see time on the weak side.RELATED: Raiders LB Goethel tears knee, out for season
Asked if he had interest in Morrison on Tuesday, Raiders coach Hue Jackson would not address the former Raiders captain specifically."Every name that's out there at this particular point in time," Jackson said. "If a guy can help the Raiders win, win the AFC West and continue towards our goals, then we're going to look at him. I don't think we'll shy away from anybody if they can help us."Up next came the name of Tatupu, who has already visited Napa this summer but is increasingly being linked to New England."(You) never know," Jackson said. "Like I said, there's a bunch of names and we'll sift through and make sure that we find the best player that can help us attain our goals."The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Morrison, 29, is coming off a career-low 89-tackle season after leading the Raiders in tackles the previous four years. He has five sacks and seven interceptions in his career.The 6-foot, 250-pound Tatupu, who turns 29 on Nov. 15, had 88 tackles in 2010 for the Seahawks, his lowest total in a non-injury season. He is coming off arthroscopic surgery to both knees in January. The three-time Pro Bowler has 8.5 sacks in his career with 10 interceptions and two touchdowns.But would either Morrison or Tatupu be able to handle being a back up at this stage of their career? And would either work for potentially lower salaries? At last report, the Raiders were 5.1 million under the salary cap, but that was before they used a third-round pick in Monday's supplemental draft to select former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor.RELATED: Why Terrelle Pryor makes sense for the Raiders...now
Goethel, a sixth-round draft pick for the Raiders out of Arizona State in 2010, was poised to claim the weak-side linebacker starting gig as a rookie before a lower back injury and surgery halted his progress. He missed eight games as a result.In camp, Goethel was expected to challenge Quentin Groves for the spot and was the lone second-team middle linebacker before injuring himself this week in a non-contact play and getting prepped for potential season-ending surgery."Freak things," Jackson said. "As a coach, it's sickening...to watch a guy work so hard to prepare himself and then, all of a sudden, something like this happens just out of the blue. It's just unfortunate."We truly believe in (Goethel)," Jackson added. "He's one of our young, gifted, talented players. But we cannot, for some reason, find a way to keep this young man healthy and going."Then might the Raiders find a way to bring back Morrison, or entice Tatupu?