The Curious Case of Perry Riley Jr.

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 04: LeSean McCoy #25 of the Buffalo Bills is tackled short of the endzone by Perry Riley #54 of the Oakland Raiders during their NFL game at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum on December 4, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Late last off-season, linebacker Perry Riley Jr. was released by the Washington Redskins. Riley had been a good-not-great linebacker for Washington over the first six years of his career, but he ended up being a cap casualty for the burgundy and gold. He remained a free agent for the first month of the season before Reggie McKenzie and the Oakland Raiders signed him. Surprisingly, he had one of the best years of his career. At the end of the season, the Raiders didn’t re-sign him. They have a need at inside linebacker, so why haven’t they signed him?

The Curious Case of Perry Riley Jr.

If the season started right now, spots one and two on Oakland’s depth chart would belong to Cory James and Jelani Jenkins. Rookie Marquel Lee is a wildcard too, but even if he surprises, the silver and black lack legitimate depth. Neither linebacker even had a Pro Football Focus grade of 50 last season, and they’ve struggled against the run and tight ends. Perry Riley Jr. would be relatively inexpensive and an upgrade over what they have now, so why not? Here’s why not.


The biggest knock against Perry Riley Jr. is that he turns 30 years old next year. He turns 30, and while he had a good year, it was just that, good. He’s not the end-all, be-all at the position, and if Lee or James has breakout ability, it will be limited by his veteran presence. He’s not the long-term answer at the position, and if the Raiders believe they have someone that can get the job done, it’s better to keep the funds.


Yes, Perry Riley Jr. had a solid year. But that’s just it. It was a solid year. The first half decade of his career was completely mediocre. It’s true that the Redskins roster could’ve held him back, but he didn’t reinvent the wheel in Oakland either. He was just perfectly passable. In a time where Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson, Khalil Mack, and Amari Cooper are all getting paid the big bucks, is Riley worth the risk? Which leads to the next question.

Coverage Sells, But Who’s Buying?

Perry Riley Jr. had a solid year playing linebacker, and for some, it seems obvious that the Raiders should re-sign him. But those people ignore a troubling truth. It’s almost July, and Riley is still a free agent. If he were such a great player, wouldn’t someone have picked him up by now? And lest we forget, the Redskins released him last year and he was unsigned for a month. There’s got to be a reason that absolutely nobody is trying to sign this guy.

The Raiders may choose to sign Perry Riley Jr. when the summer comes to an end and they still have a problem at the position. With the time that passes, he may even come at a cheaper price. For the time being however, it doesn’t seem like the linebacker is part of Oakland’s plan moving forward.


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