Wailuku’s Maiava Signs With Oakland Raiders for $6M
By Rodney S. Yap
The Oakland Raiders hope free-agent linebacker Kaluka Maiava will help strengthen their depleted defense, signing the Baldwin High School graduate to a three-year, $6 million contract Wednesday.
After losing three of the team’s most productive defensive players from last year in defensive back Michael Huff (released), linebacker Philip Wheeler (free agent to Miami) and defensive lineman Desmond Bryant (to Cleveland), the Raiders signed Maiava, defensive tackle Pat Sims and defensive end Jason Hunter.
“We’re excited to add three veterans through free agency, helping to create depth and competition on defense,” said Oakland General Manager Reggie McKenzie in an Associated Press story on ESPN.com. “We’ll continue to add free agents as the opportunity surfaces.”
The Raiders needed linebackers as they had only one returning starter under contract in Miles Burris.
The 5-foot-11, 226-pound Maiava is expected to at very least offer solid depth at a position that doesn’t even have three starters, let alone backups behind them.
Maiava played the last four seasons with the Cleveland Browns at outside linebacker. He started 13 games at weakside linebacker last season for the Browns and made 30 solo tackles. He totaled a career high 53 combined tackles, 2.0 sacks, 3 passes defended, and 2 forced fumbles in 2012.
The former USC linebacker was a fourth-round draft pick in 2009, while playing in a quartet of linebackers that included Brian Cushing (Houston), Clay Matthews (Green Bay) and Rey Maualuga (Cincinnati).
Maiava was phased out in Cleveland with the team switching to a 3-4 defense.
The 25-year-old Wailuku native had 22 starts in 50 games (four seasons) with Cleveland. He arrives a day after starting strong side linebacker Wheeler signed with the Dolphins.
According to reports, Oakland has only three returning defensive starters under contract besides Burris, in safety Tyvon Branch and defensive linemen Lamar Houston and Tommy Kelly.
Oakland ranked 18th in total defense and 28th in scoring defense last year in coach Dennis Allen’s first season but showed signs of improvement late in the year that led to the decision to bring back coordinator Jason Tarver for a second season.
Tarver will have to work in quite a few new players into his scheme. All three of the new players will likely be in the mix for starting jobs with Maiava expected to replace Wheeler at outside linebacker after Wheeler got a $26 million, five-year deal from Miami with $13 million guaranteed.
Sims, 27, has 23 starts in five seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals but just one in the past two years. At 6-foot-2, 335 pounds, Sims can play over the nose at a position of need for a team that lost Desmond Bryant to Cleveland in free agency and has parted ways with veteran Richard Seymour.
Hunter, 6-foot-4, 275 pounds, spent last season on the injured reserve list of the Denver Broncos with a triceps injury. Hunter has 23 starts and played in 88 games with the Broncos, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. He was an undrafted free agent signed by the Packers when McKenzie was in the Green Bay personnel department.