Raiders Sign Curtis Lofton
The Raiders took a step toward shoring up their linebacker corps on Wednesday, signing former Saint Curtis Lofton to a three-year deal worth a reported $18 million. New Orleans released the veteran linebacker on Monday in a move to free up some cap space.
In a season rife with injuries at the linebacker position, Lofton emerged as an unlikely LB1. He racked up 145 total tackles (100 solo), which marked the sixth time he’s topped triple digit tackles in his seven-year career.
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Unfortunately, Lofton is extremely one-dimensional for IDP purposes. In 2014, he failed to tally a single sack despite rushing the passer 98 times. He also tends to be a limited asset in coverage, only producing three interceptions in his career along with an average of just 3.9 passes defensed per season.
In Oakland, Lofton is the early favorite to start in the middle. He’ll likely replace Miles Burris, who graded out as PFF’s No. 60 inside linebacker out of 60 qualifiers in 2014. Lofton only fared slightly better, ranking No. 56 at the position with negative grades as a pass rusher, against the run, and in coverage.
The Saints are now extremely thin at linebacker with special teamer Jerry Franklin currently sitting atop the depth chart in the middle. Outside linebacker David Hawthorne took a $1.25 million pay cut to avoid being cut, and is presently the most likely candidate for every-down duties. Hawthorne has flashed IDP value in the past, and offers a risk/reward LB3 profile if things stick. That being said, the tea leaves suggests this situation is far from resolved. New Orleans is likely to address linebacker either in free agency or the draft.
Lofton joins a Raiders defense with a lot of young talent at the linebacker position. Both Sio Moore and Khalil Mack displayed strong fantasy potential in 2014, with the latter grading out as the No. 1 4-3 outside linebacker.
Here’s the big question for IDP purposes: Will Lofton play every down in Oakland?
He’s served in that role in each of the last six seasons despite deficiencies in coverage. Last season, the Raiders used Burris as a three-down player in all 16 games, but of course, we’re dealing with a change of regime in Oakland with Jack Del Rio now in at head coach. Under Del Rio, the Broncos tended to use Von Miller every down along with one other linebacker (mainly Brandon Marshall in 2014).
If we see a similar deployment in Oakland, Lofton is likely to be the odd man out. Mack is all but assured the Miller role, and Moore’s versatility makes him the more likely candidate to play all three downs. Needless to say, this would be a significant blow to Lofton’s fantasy value. In a two-down role, Lofton would have matchup LB3 value at best and would be unstartable most weeks.
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Assistant Managing Editor and resident IDP maven of PFF Fantasy.