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

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

August 1, 2011GUTIERREZ ARCHIVE
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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."

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.

They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.

Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.

“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”

While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.

The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.

“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.

"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.

Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.

Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.

“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”

Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.

“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”