The Raiders have been in desperate need of a backup middle linebacker since Travis Goethel went down with a dislocated hip. Goethel is out for the season, and the team had yet to replace him, but they made a move today to do just that by signing recently waived journeyman linebacker Jeremy Leman. To make room for Leman on the roster, the team released Zac Etheridge.
Leman has spent four seasons on camp rosters and practice squads. He broke onto an NFL roster just once, when he was signed for the final three games of the 2009 season with the Vikings. He had three tackles in his first game and zero in the following two.
He has been on three NFL teams — Vikings, Panthers, and Chargers — and spent last season with the Florida Tuskers of the UFL. Leman was at the Chargers’ training camp, but he was waived on Tuesday in the first wave of roster cuts.
He does have a chance to make the Raiders’ roster but it will be a difficult task without even a full practice between now and the final cutdown on Saturday. He could be added to the Raiders’ practice squad and be called up to the regular season roster if need be. Or, with the Raiders’ lack of depth behind starter Rolando McClain, Leman could make the team.
He does have a leg up, however, as he was Raider defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan’s middle linebacker while with the Florida Tuskers. So this signing makes a lot of sense on such short notice. He is already familiar with Bresnahan’s scheme and can pick up everything else on the fly.
Leman becomes the second UFL linebacker to sign with the Raiders this offseason. Darryl Blackstock, formerly of the Virginia Destroyers, came on board to compete on the weak side. Both he and Leman have a good chance of making the squad due to a lack of options in the linebacking corps for the Raiders.
An NCAA consensus All-American in 2007, Leman was also named to the Big Ten’s first team defense in 2006 and 2007. Leman started over 40 games at linebacker during his tenure at Illinois. During the 2007 campaign, Leman led the Fighting Illini to nine wins and helped the team earn a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Leman stands at sixth place on Illinois’ all time tackle list. His 152 tackles in the 2006 season was best in the Big Ten, and is the sixth best single-season effort ever at the school. He also ranks fifth on the Illinois charts in career tackles for loss.
Zac Etheridge was signed as an undrafted free agent and was hampered by an injury throughout much of camp.