The Raiders needed help at linebacker and got some by signing unrestricted free agent Jelani Jenkins. The team announced the pact on Monday afternoon, after he visited the team facility.
Jenkins should fill a need at weakside linebacker, one created when incumbent Malcolm Smith signed with the 49ers.
Jenkins is the presumed starter at this point, playing a position without depth. It shouldn’t deter the Raiders from addressing this position in the NFL draft should a valued player be available at the right time.
Signing Jenkins comes a few days after Buffalo weakside linebacker Zach Brown visited the Raiders complex and left without a contract.
The Raiders still have a vacancy at middle linebacker, with Cory James and Ben Heeney expected to play backup roles. Last year’s starter Perry Riley remains on the open market.
Jenkins adds some playmaking capability and a recent injury history to the depth chart on the weakside, a spot where coverage ability is paramount.
The 25 year old is an athletic defender with upside limited to nine games and seven starts last season due to injury. He hasn’t played a full season yet, but was a full-time starter in 2014 and 2015. His best year came in 2014, when he had 110 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Jenkins is the first defender signed this offseason.