Raiders see pass-rushing upside in signing Bruce Irvin

Mike Renner takes a look at the surprising move that will bring linebacker Bruce Irvin to Oakland.

| 8 months ago
(Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Raiders see pass-rushing upside in signing Bruce Irvin

The deal: Per a report from Aaron Wilson, Bruce Irvin will ink a four-year, $37 million deal ($19 million guaranteed).

Grade: C+

What it means for the Raiders: It’s rare to see a player four years into his career still being tagged with the “upside” label, but that’s what it seems like the Raiders are hoping for with this deal. Irvin’s rookie season was highlighted by dominant stretches rushing the passer. In it, he recorded 10 sacks, 12 hits, and had a top-10 pass-rushing productivity among 4-3 defensive ends. The next year though, Irvin switched to a more traditional linebacker role and rushed the passer on only 136 times, compared to 393 as a rookie. The Seahawks saw that he was being underutilized for perhaps his best skill, and employed him more as a nickel rusher the next two seasons, but Irvin never recaptured that rookie form, actually grading out below average as a pass-rusher the last two seasons.

But this is where the “upside” comes in. Ken Norton, Jr., the Raiders defensive coordinator, spent five seasons in Seattle as a linebackers coach, with three of them tutoring Irvin. He knows full well what the former first-round pick is capable of, and expects Irvin to form a fearsome pass-rushing duo with Khalil Mack.

What it means for the Seahawks: One has to wonder how much talent that vaunted Seahawks’ defense can bleed before they start to markedly regress. We already saw it to a degree in 2015, but losing another quality starter like Bruce Irvin won’t help. If there is a silver lining in losing their outside linebacker, it’s that he never quite developed into the feared pass-rusher the Seahawks saw glimpses of his rookie season. His pass-rushing grade declined every year after that 11-sack first season, even though his pass rushing attempts were about the same the past two seasons.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • Matthew518

    Stop with the negativity. Reggie has made two great signings. They’ve had to get out that checkbook, but, both of these players will help take the Raiders to that next step. If they can sign one of the decent RBs still available to pair with Murray, and can work on that secondary, I think they’ll be a legitimate playoff contender next year. With the Broncos probably sliding, I think it will be between the Chiefs and Raiders.

    • shaunhan murray

      These r just facts, as teams get better they also start to cost lots of money and signing someone for 4 years is scary when their isnt a lot of production and has some character issues.i like the move but it has a high chance of busting…and booming.

      • crosseyedlemon

        The Raiders have a long history of overlooking “character issues” and being rewarded for that. Looks like a worthwhile risk to me but time will tell.

        • shaunhan murray

          Yeah if I was a raiders fan I would be happy but not like Reggie isthe best GM in the league happy

  • calling all toasters

    The Raiders got eaten alive by opponents’ tight ends last year. Irvin is a perfect remedy for that. If Mario Edwards Jr. comes back, they won’t need much (if any) help with the pass rush.

    • shaunhan murray

      U always need help in pass rushing and I dont think bruce will help a ton against TE, he is an average lb but has upside as a rusher

  • Joshua Rogers

    I believe Del Rio & Norton Jr will get the most out of Irvin. They came in and put Khalil Mack in a position to get 15 sacks, that’s 11 more than he got in his rookie year. His sack numbers wild be increased either way, but by moving him to a DE/LB Hybrid role they were able to get the most out of Mack and he rewarded them with being the first player to be named as a 1st team All-Pro at 2 positions. I’m just glad Regiie didn’t make an Al Davis type move and get into a bidding war for Vernon or Jackson. 5/85 & 6/90 was just too much money for their production. Reggie is playing it smart and as long as he keeps with his strategy, the Raiders will be in the Playoffs as early as 2016. Sign Smith and some mid-tier players for depth and let’s move on to the Draft.