Raiders release starting linebacker Tahir Whitehead

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Las Vegas Raiders released linebacker Tahir Whitehead on Monday, clearing $6.25 million in salary cap space in advance of free agency, which begins next week.

As such, the Raiders now have more than $53.9 million in cap room, 11th most in the NFL. Whitehead, who turns 30 on April 2, started all 32 games for the Raiders the past two seasons after signing with the team as a free agent following six seasons with the Detroit Lions.

And while he had 108 combined tackles last season, the fourth straight year he had more than 100 tackles, Whitehead's 941 defensive snaps last season were the most in the NFL for any linebacker who failed to record a sack, an interception, a fumble recovery or a forced fumble, according to research by the Associated Press.

Whitehead carried a cap number of more than $7.29 million for the 2020 season, second-highest among defensive players for Las Vegas (defensive back Lamarcus Joyner has a cap number of $9.2 million for this season), and he would have had a roster bonus of $12,500 per each game he was on the 46-man active roster, with a max value of $200,000.

After the Week 5 season-long suspension of middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, Whitehead slid over from the strong side and assumed the role of defensive playcaller by wearing the green-dot helmet and playing in the middle of the Raiders' 4-3 base defense.

"That's what people fail to understand -- this s--- is not foreign to me," Whitehead told ESPN.com at the time of the switch in responsibilities, referencing his past in Detroit. "People ask, 'How does it feel to wear the green dot?' I've been wearing the damn green dot.

"I play linebacker. I believe in versatility. ... Guys are being cross-trained to know all three positions. ... So you've got to be able to bounce around. It doesn't matter who is listed at what. If you understand the scheme and where the fits are in the defense you can go out there and play any position. We're all ready, and you've got to be ready to be able to go in and play wherever we're needed."

But late in the season, Whitehead was replaced at middle linebacker and as the green-dot by Will Compton, who had been signed off the street. Linebacker, and middle linebacker in particular, is a position of need for the Raiders, who also have five draft picks in the top 91 selections, including Nos. 12 and 19 overall.