Let's continue our on-again, off-again look at potential targets for the New York Giants when NFL free agency begins for the 2013 season on March 12, which is really just a few days away.
Today let's look at Oakland Raiders' linebacker Philip Wheeler. A five-year veteran, Wheeler had a breakout season with the Raiders in 2012 after spending his first four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. Working on a one-year deal, he had a career-high 109 tackles, and also a career-best in sacks, with three.
Wheeler, 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, is ranked as the fourth-best linebacker available by Pro Football Focus. Wheeler is really an outside linebacker, not a middle linebacker where it would seem the Giants' biggest need might be. PFF graded him at +9.8 overall in 2012, sixth among 4-3 outside linebackers. His numbers suggest he's better in pass coverage than against the run.
Levi Damien of SB Nation's Silver and Black Pride doesn't seem to think Oakland will let Wheeler get away.
Phillip Wheeler will have a market should he be allowed to test it. However, I think his value is greatest to the Raiders. They are very thin at linebacker and Wheeler was the leading tackler and defensive play-caller last season. Some would argue he was their defensive MVP due to the workload he took on and how well he performed. The coaches were raving about him before the season even began. He came to Oakland on a one-year prove it deal and he proved it. He took over as the defensive play caller from Rolando McClain after week four and the team immediately improved. He has nice speed and is a solid tackler. Once the Raiders shed some of the big contracts and clear some cap room, I expect Wheeler will get a good contract and stay with the Raiders. Both because they want him to stay and he and his agent know Oakland is where he will get the most money with an established starting job on an otherwise rebuilding team.
If the Raiders let Wheeler get away is he a guy you would like to see the Giants pursue him?