Should The Raiders Cut Or Keep Their Free Agents

D.J. O'ConnorSenior Analyst IIIFebruary 17, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Thomas Howard #53 and Kirk Morrison #52 of the Oakland Raiders celebrate after a play against the Philadelphia Eagles during an NFL game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 18, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The Raiders have made their first move of the 2010 off-season effecting the roster.  They have re-signed Kicker Sebastian Janikowski to a 4 year/$16M contract, $9M guarnteed.  This contract is exactly the same as Punter Shane Lechler got in 2009.  So with SeaBass, or now known as $eaBa$$, re-signed to the largest contract ever for a kicker in the NFL, I will look at and try to predict what the Raiders will do with their other free agents.

     Tyvon Branch,Safety, Restricted:  Find one Oakland Raiders fan who doesn't want Branch back after his explosive 2009 and I will show you a picture of Al Davis wearing a Ladanian Tomlinson jersey.  Branch must be brought back, end of story.

     Kirk Morrison, MLB, Restricted:   Morrison has been the Raiders leading tackler for the last 5 seasons.  How can anyone consider releasing him?  Some fans say that the Raiders should target Rolando McClain from Alabama, but there is no guarntee that he will fall to #8 in the draft.  So if the Raiders cut Morrison and McClain is drafted in the top 7...What will the Raiders do?  Morrison would be easy to re-tain this off-season, with the restricted free agent status.  He will cost the Raiders, at the highest, $3.268M and that tender would insure that nobody else could sign him this year.  I say keep Morrison and try to sign him long-term.

     Stanford Routt, CB, Restricted:   Routt was given high expectations as a Round 2 pick in 2005, after the Round 1 pick was used on Fabian Washington.  2005 can be considered the year of the failure to draft a good CB.  Routt has been absolutely dominated by WRs, but has had good moments.  After 5 years in the NFL, Routt has 4 INTs, 3 of them in 2007, none in the last 2 years.  Even though he has had a bad start to his career I say tender (re-sign to match sheet) him.  It would be a win-win for the Raiders, if he stays he could be a gunner on special teams with his speed and f he if tendered by another team the Raiders get a Round 2 pick this year as compensation.  Maybe he will turn things around this year if the Raiders keep him, like Michael Huff in 2009.  The Raiders may want to give him another chance.

     Gary Russell, RB-FB, Restricted:   He had a great game against the Eagles, 5 catches for 55 yards including the winning 1st down, but he wasn't used that much as the season went along.  I don't know who in their right mind made him a kickoff returner.  He would only cost the Raiders $1.1M this year and with the bad luck of FB's lately, injuries and suspensions, insurance couldn't hurt.  The Raiders should keep him.

     Thomas Howard, OLB, Restricted:   Howard is a big question mark for the Raiders, he excells in pass coverage, 7 career INTs--6 in 2007, but he is weak against the run.  He has great speed for a LB, but has trouble getting off blocks to the ball.  He looked better in run defense last season, getting into the backfield much faster.  Maybe it is the change in defensive coordinator from Rob Ryan to Jon Marshall that helped Howard.  A second-round tender for Howard will be $1.759M.  If the Raiders give 4yr,$16M  to a kicker who is only on the field for 5-10 plays a game (with all due respect to SeaBass) why not give this small salary to a promising young stud like Howard.  I think the Raiders will keep Howard. 

     Chris Morris,G-C, Restricted:   Morris came out of training camp as the starter at center, ahead of Samson Satele.  When Robert Gallery was injured, Morris moved to guard to fill for Gallery and Satele stepped up at center.  When Gallery returned, Morris was benched and Satele started the rest of the year.  If the Raiders thought Morris was good enough to start (he also played in the Raiders 2008 finale @TB) then I am sure that they will keep him and his versatility for a tender of $1.101M for this season. 

     Cornell Green, RT, Unrestricted:   We all saw how bad he played last year, I say either release him or sign him to a cheap 1 year contract as a back-up.  Tom Cable may want to keep him and try to re-build Green's career.  Green was part of the Raiders 2007 O-line that ranked #6 in rushing offense. 

     Richard Seymour, DE, Unrestricted:   With Janikowski re-signed, I expect Seymour to either sign a contract or get the franchise tag.  I am against the franchise tag but I believe Seymour will get it unless he signs a contract.  One thing I am very sure of, Al Davis didn't trade to the Patriots a 1st Round pick for Seymour to get 1 season.  Seymour had 47 tackles and 4 sacks in 2009, not too hot.  But, he was given double teams constantly and arrived in Oakland 2 days before the season started because of the Patriots' failure to notify him he was on the trade block.  Contract or tag, Seymour will be back in 2010.

     Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Restricted:   The Raiders can't let go of Gradkowski.  He was Russell's challenge last year.  If the Raiders release Bruce, they will be giving Russell a free starting spot, the same mistake made when they released Jeff Garcia.  The tender to Bruce would $1.759M for 2010.  Although the Raiders should give him a multi-year deal, the tender is better than releasing him.  At least it will keep him in Oakland.  I can't predict what will happen here because:  I don't know what Al Davis thinks of the QB situation and if the Raiders do keep Gradkowski, will it be the tender or a long term contract.

     Charlie Frye, QB, Restricted:   Frye was starting at the end of last year but he was not fun to watch.  Although he completed 53 of 87 passes (60.9 completion %) for 581 yards he had 1 TD compared to 4 INTs and had trouble staying in games.  At least Russell was able to get back up after taking hard hits.  The Raiders could offer him $1.226M and allow other teams to make offers or lock him up in Oakland for $1.849M and not allow other teams to offer.  I say keep him until training camp, but from there on he could have trouble getting a job. 

     Ricky Brown, OLB, Resticted:   With back-to-back seasons ending on the IR list, I think Ricky Brown will not be tendered.  He was given a second-round tender of $1.7M last year but I think he is done in Oakland.  The Raiders are bringing up Trevor Scott in the OLB ranks and Scott could take Brown's spot in 2010.  I don't know how good Scott will be, but he could get the chance.  Maybe the Raiders will give Brown another year or at least a chance in training camp.  Last year at training camp he had a fight with Morrison for the MLB spot.  If Morrison leaves, Brown has an open door back to Oakland.

     Jon Alston, OLB, Restricted:   It will be $1.176M to tender him.  He is coming off a season of 2 concussions landing him on the IR.  His compensation would be a third round draft pick.  IF Brown is released the Raiders should keep Alston for the depth at LB.

     Khalif Barnes, LT-RT, Restricted:   He had a chance to start in 2009, until a broken ankle ende his pre-season.  I think the Raiders should give him another year, but he fell so far down the Raiders depth chart that he could be gone.  He was behind Langston Walker (another free agent).  The Raider could an opening if the Raiders don't draft an OT and release Cornell Green.  Walker and Barnes could compete for the RT spot in 2010.