What Did We Learn from the Oakland Raiders' Roster Cuts?
Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
Once the moves were announced, there were very few surprises. One thing is certain: general manager Reggie McKenzie is far from done shaping the roster.
Even though the 53-man roster is likely to be much different when the Raiders face the Chargers a week from Monday, there's value in understanding where the Raiders could add players and what it means for the depth and rotations at certain key positions.
The Raiders kept seven cornerbacks on the roster which was a mild surprise, but don't expect it to stay that way. Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer are the starters, but also making the squad were second-year players DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa, veteran Pat Lee and kick returners Bryan McCann and Coye Francies.
The expectation would be that the Raiders would drop one or more of the cornerbacks in favor of a linebacker once they have time to comb through more than 600 players that were waived or terminated on Friday.
Which of the seven cornerbacks is most likely to be cut before the regular season?
At least part of the reason the Raiders kept seven cornerbacks was because of poor special teams play this preseason. Francies and Lee are both good in return coverage, McCann and Francies can return kicks and McCann is also getting an opportunity to return punts.
The Raiders were left scrambling to find a viable player to return kicks and punts when wide receiver Jacoby Ford injured his foot in the second preseason game.
Safety Michael Huff has served as the team's nickel cornerback for most of the preseason, so it's also reasonable that the Raiders could be looking for a nickel cornerback that was cut on Friday. Joselio Hanson was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles and comes to mind as a veteran nickel cornerback that McKenzie could target.
The Raiders placed Aaron Curry on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list and he will miss at least the first six games on the regular season. Unfortunately, the Raiders didn't find much quality depth at linebacker and will initially carry just five on the active roster.
With rookie Miles Burris as the starting weak-side linebacker, the Raiders could find themselves playing a lot of nickel with Huff and Matt Giordano on the field with Rolando McClain and Philip Wheeler.
A total of 82 linebackers were released on Friday, and McKenzie will be poring over their game tape overnight looking for one or two that can help the Raiders.
Three Players to Injured Reserve
One other way the Raiders got down to the 53-man limit was by placing safety Brandon Underwood, punter Marquette King and tight end Tory Humphrey on injured reserve. All three players had promising training camps but found themselves stuck behind other players in their quest to make the final roster.
NFL teams like to use the injured reserve to stash players for the following year, particularly when they have some with long-term value to the team. All-world punter Shane Lechler is in a contract year and the Raiders will be tight against the cap in 2013 like they were in 2012 and could turn to the younger, cheaper King.
Four Undrafted Players Make the Roster
Two players that went undrafted in 2012 and two formerly undrafted players made the roster this year in Oakland. Wide receiver Rod Streater and offensive guard Lucas Nix went undrafted in 2012 while defensive tackle Jamie Cumbie went undrafted in 2011 and center Alex Parsons went undrafted in 2010.
Streater and Parsons could be in for significant playing time if injuries continue to linger for wide receivers Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford and center Stefen Wisniewski.
A New Era?
Are you surprised McKenzie didn't release more players from the 2011 team?
Perhaps one of the more interesting developments was the lack of surprises. McKenzie didn't release a single player that was on the active roster for the entire 2011 season. Essentially, the Raiders came out of training camp much the way the team went into training camp and no further purging of the roster was required.
McKenzie did all of the purging earlier in the offseason when he released four starters from last year in Stanford Routt, Kevin Boss, Kamerion Wimbley and Chris Johnson. The presumption of many was that there would be a few players that needed to buy into the new way of doing things in Oakland and if they didn't, they would get their pink slips as well.
So far that has not been required and the players have spoken glowingly about the new coaching staff, the new scheme and the new atmosphere.
More Change Is Coming
The Raiders have made no secret about their displeasure with the depth on the roster and will be looking to add quality depth on defense. Don't be surprised if the Raiders release two or three of the cornerbacks that made the roster in favor of options available on the open market.
At least one body at linebacker and another quality option at cornerback is needed before the regular season starts.
Available linebackers include players like Gary Guyton and Bryan Kehl. One very interesting pass-rushing rookie is Adrian Hamilton, although the Raiders wouldn't be able to drop him into coverage.
Guyton and Kehl play special teams and could help in spurts at weak-side linebacker.
Available cornerbacks include Hanson, Darius Butler, Drayton Florence, Alphonso Smith, Leigh Torrence and Chris Carr.
Butler played with Raiders' safety Tyvon Branch at Connecticut, and Torrence was coached by head coach Dennis Allen when he was in New Orleans. Carr has a history as a punt and kick returner which is a skill that could be appealing to the Raiders, although he hasn't done it for a couple years.
Florence and Hanson are the most veteran of the group, but they would probably also be the most costly to bring in. Smith is a former second-round pick that never developed into a starting cornerback in Detroit, but he could improve with a change of scenery.
There's also no shortage of young players that were released that McKenzie could bring in, but they probably wouldn't help the Raiders significantly early in the season. At this point, McKenzie would be looking for a core special-teams player with potential.
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