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Raiders address linebacker issues by trading for Denzel Perryman

The Raiders wasted no time addressing their injury-ravaged linebacking corps, acquiring veteran Denzel Perryman on Wednesday in a trade with the Carolina Panthers.

Perryman played the first six years of his career with the Chargers — the last four under Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley — before signing with the Panthers during the offseason.

In the trade, which is pending a physical, the Raiders also swapped their 2022 sixth-round draft pick for the Panthers’ 2021 seventh-round pick. Perryman will compete for the chance to replace the injured Nicholas Morrow in the starting lineup while also providing depth.

Coach Jon Gruden didn’t provide an exact timeline, but it looks like the injuries to Morrow and backup Javin White will be of the extended variety. That means it’s possible both will miss several games.

“Obviously we’re concerned about them being available,” Gruden said.

It also helps that Nick Kwiatkoski, who was injured in the Raiders’ preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks, is expected back next week and should get a full two-week runway to the regular-season opener on Sept. 13.

With White out of the picture for a little while with a knee injury and Morrow expected to be sidelined even longer with a foot injury, the door also cracks open for Tanner Muse and Divine Deablo, a pair of college safeties making the transition to NFL linebacker.

Deablo has finally been cleared as a full practice participant after working his way back from a knee injury. Muse has had a solid camp and is listed as the Raiders’ starting strongside linebacker in their base defense. But he missed all of last year with a toe injury and whatever transition period he was facing now gets thrown right out the window.

In fact, both players face a critical week as they try to show the Raiders that they are capable backups.

“That’s an understatement,” Gruden said of Muse and Deablo before the Raiders announced the trade for Perryman. “Hopefully, they rise to the occasion. People have done that before in this league. The Raiders have done it before. We’ll see what happens.”

In addition to acquiring Perryman, the Raiders are hosting veteran Mark Barron, who last played for the Steelers in 2019, for a visit this week and continue to monitor Seahawks free agent K.J. Wright, who played two seasons under Bradley in Seattle.

“We’ll continue to look at that position in its entirety,” Gruden said.

Muse has opened eyes with his versatility and ability to play multiple linebacker positions. In fact, he had to move inside against the Rams on Saturday to cover the Raiders through the second half.

“Give him credit, he’s playing two or three positions and he’s a very good special-teams player,” Gruden said. “He needs to play. He didn’t play at all last year and hasn’t been a linebacker for more than six months. So this is good for him.”

Deablo is the wild card in the equation. The Raiders had high hopes for him upon drafting him in the third round last April but had to wait out a knee injury that sidelined him for almost all of OTAs and training camp.

In spite of his collegiate designation as a safety, Deablo’s Virginia Tech film showed a physical, rangy athlete with an advanced understanding of pass coverage and the toughness and instincts to defend the run.

At 6 feet, 3 inches and 226 pounds, he has the size and speed to survive as a modern-day linebacker, where the stoutness to play the run can’t come at the expense of the swiftness to stay with tight ends and running backs in pass coverage.

“He’s got athleticism and range,” Gruden said. “He’s got playing speed. He showed very good instincts at Virginia Tech in a couple of different positions. So that combination is exciting. We think that he and Cory Littleton will give us two really athletic young linebackers.”

The trick now is condensing Deablo’s long-range plan into a more immediate one.

“We’re hoping he can be on a fast track,” Gruden said. “He’s going to have to learn quickly on the run because they’re not postponing any of our games.”

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