The Las Vegas Raiders fired defensive coordinator Paul Guenther after Sunday’s 44-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The Raiders have allowed at least 30 points in eight separate contests this season and have given up three more touchdowns and 25 more points than any other team in the NFL over the last four games.
That includes a 31-28 win over the New York Jets only eight days ago — a game that featured two defensive coordinators who have since been fired.
The “axle” of any defense would simplistically be the man in the literal middle of it and in the case of the Raiders, that would be inside linebacker Cory Littleton. Rated as the 14th-best free agent of 2020 by NFL.com, Littleton left the Los Angeles Rams and signed a three-year, $36 million contract with Las Vegas that ties him to the team — at least financially speaking — through 2023: The Raiders have to account for $4 million in dead money for Littleton even the year after his contract expires.
If he continues to play as he did under Guenther, the Raiders will probably be forced to move on by 2022.
Littleton averaged 130 tackles, 2.5 interceptions, 4 sacks and 11 passes defensed over his last two seasons with the Rams. This season in Las Vegas, Littleton has totaled 57 tackles, zero sacks, zero interceptions, zero QB hits, zero forced fumbles and three tackles for a loss in 11 games.
It was these two plays for me.. Eric Harris crashing in, and Cory Littleton crashing. Both players failing to contain. Just undisciplined eyes. Confused on what to do. pic.twitter.com/vHAXqXqHPM— Joey Bates (@bates_jw) December 14, 2020
The 10th-highest paid linebacker in the NFL, Littleton’s playing time has decreased from 100% of the snaps prior to missing two games on the COVID-19 list, to roughly only 55% of the snaps over his last three games. Cited by some as one of the worst signings of 2020, Littleton only counts $3.6 million against the salary cap this season, but then $13.7 million against the cap in 2021.
The Raiders wouldn’t save any money by releasing Littleton until 2022, at which point they’d save $7.7 million with $6 million in dead money. Then the $4 million in dead money in 2023.
In addition to having a former Rams player at middle linebacker, the Raiders also feature Lamarcus Joyner as a starter in the secondary; Joyner has played in 62% of the snaps this season after general manager Mike Mayock signed him to a four-year, $42 million deal in 2019.
Having lost Littleton, Joyner, Dante Fowler, Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Nickell Robey-Coleman and Wade Phillips, among others, in the last two years, the LA Rams are currently third in points allowed and first in yards allowed under Brandon Staley in 2020.
Speaking of Phillips, he’s reportedly interested in coaching Littleton and Joyner again, if Jon Gruden and Mayock would have him.
Via sources: Longtime NFL defensive coordinator Wade Phillips absolutely wants to coach again next year in the NFL and would be interested in the @Raiders defensive coordinator position. (Phillips coached both Cory Littleton and Lamarcus Joyner in his time with the Rams)— Vincent Bonsignore (@VinnyBonsignore) December 14, 2020