One of the Oakland Raiders' worst-kept secrets was officially revealed this afternoon as underachieving defensive tackle Tommy Kelly was released by the club. Kelly's release leaves the club with just four high-profile players from the Al Davis era: Sebastian Janikowski, Darren McFadden, Rolando McClain and Terrelle Pryor.
The team released a statement via Twitter that said in part: "The club appreciates his service, dedication and toughness."
That's a very nice sentiment, but it does not quite apply to the player I watched for the better part of nine seasons. Yes, Kelly produced solid sack seasons in 2010 and 2011. The only problem with that is that a defensive tackle is supposed to help a defense in its stoutness against the run.
By and large, Kelly was a sieve and often used as the pivot player upon which running plays were based. During his time with the Raiders, the defense never once finished better than 18th against the run, and that happened in the previous year, statistically Kelly's worst.
None of this is to say that Tommy Kelly is the singular blame for the Raiders' struggles on defense during his tenure. That would be patently false. But the problem is that while Kelly was never an elite player, he was paid like one.
Seven years, $50 million. Another big swing and miss by the late Al Davis to try to win quickly instead of planning for the long haul. Kelly's lack of play should not be devalued simply because he was overpaid, though. Oh no, he was also inconsistent, undisciplined and largely one-dimensional.
So Reggie McKenzie has purged yet another high-profile Al Davis player. Another appears destined to go as well in McClain. That is a formality of time and not circumstance. The most pressing player issue remains what to do with Carson Palmer.
While many continue to speculate about Palmer's future with the Raiders, few have actually asked the right question: Is Carson Palmer the solution to Oakland's quarterback problem? There have been many opinions about Palmer's contract and his potential replacements, but what are the Raiders hoping to accomplish in 2013?
If this is a rebuilding situation, what is the harm in rolling with Terrelle Pryor and taking a year to further evaluate the player already in-house? Carson Palmer is not going to tilt four or five games into the win column and is not a long-term option. While I understand why keeping him would make sense, it stands to reason that if a farsighted view is taken, the best way to do that is to see what the younger option at quarterback is capable of.
I personally think the Raiders are best served by continuing this purge and moving forward without Palmer, but I would not be bothered either way. Even if he stays, prospects for 2013 are limited, and Palmer is certainly a goner after this year. It just makes sense to see if Pryor can play before a better stock of quarterbacks becomes available in the 2014 NFL draft.