According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Raiders are expected to give tight end Kevin Boss his walking papers, effectively releasing him after one lonely season with the team. By doing so, Oakland saves the $2 million roster bonus he would have received had he remained on the team through Thursday.
The significance of this move is threefold. One, it obviously clears up a bit of cap space, which Oakland desperately needs to do this offseason. The Raiders have done a serviceable job at whittling down that number, as they currently sit at a mere $640,000 below the cap limit, this according to NFLTradeRumors.com.
Every little bit helps in the NFL, where salary adjusting is an intense science. Boss became the latest victim of the number crunch, due in large part to point No. 2: his smallish performance last season.
In an effort to compensate for the loss of tight end Zach Miller to free agency last offseason, the Raiders signed Boss to a four-year, $16 million contract. He had played the previous four seasons with the New York Giants.
Sadly, Boss did not live up to the standards that Miller had set before him. A performance review of Boss shows that he hauled in a mere 28 passes for 368 yards and three touchdowns. He was simply not a significant part of then-coach Hue Jackson’s offensive scheme. And yet, it’s apparent that Boss is not the man for the job for new head coach Dennis Allen.
The third important revelation from the release of Boss is that the Raiders seemingly have confidence in the very inexperienced tight ends currently on their roster: 2011 draftees David Ausberry and Richard Gordon and 2009 draft pick Brandon Myers. Or do they?
Ausberry and Gordon saw very limited playing time as rookies, combining for three catches for 16 yards. Myers tallied a tiny 16 receptions for 151 yards. Myers is the most experienced of the trio, with 32 catches in 42 career games played. But does that necessarily make him the incumbent for the starting tight end spot next season? It’s hard to give him or Ausberry and Gordon a true assessment when their performance sample size is so small.
Which begs the question: Will Oakland tap the NFL draft for another tight end? The Raiders so far only have a fifth-round pick and a sixth-round pick in this spring’s upcoming NFL draft. Thus, it’s hard to determine whether a late-draft rookie tight end will project any better than the three tight ends who are currently on Oakland’s roster. It’s like comparing apples to oranges—or rather, unripe apples to unripe oranges. It makes no difference—they are all green.
A quick look at the tight ends in this year’s draft shows that potential players who will be available in the fifth and sixth rounds include David Paulson (Oregon), Emil Igwenagu (UMass), Kevin Koger (Michigan), George Bryan (N.C. State), Brad Smelley (Alabama), Josh Chichester (Louisville), Rhett Ellison (USC), DC Jefferson (Rutgers) and Chase Ford (Miami).
According to WalterFootball.com, sleeper tight end picks this late in the draft could be Koger and Bryan. But can the Raiders really tell if one of these players will be any better than Ausberry, Gordon or Myers? Moreover, should Oakland not receive any more compensatory selections prior to the NFL draft, would they use one of their two picks on a tight end?
And it's equally not possible that the Raiders will pick someone up in the free-agency market. Seems a bit counterintuitive to release a player to save cap space and then sign a free agent who could command a significant pay check.
One thing to look out for is the retention of fullback Marcel Reece, who was one of the Raiders’ more valuable offensive players last season. Reece served in a variety of capacities, playing out wide, in the slot, as a tight end and as a fullback. It’s possible that Oakland could move him to a more permanent spot as the full-time tight end. They just need to sign him first.
Oakland made an offer to the restricted free agent Reece yesterday, per CBSSports.com. If the Raiders are able to keep him on, it will be a huge boost to the continuity of their offense in 2012.
And after the canning of Boss, maybe Reece will be the missing piece at tight end.
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