Oakland Raiders: Cut Em or Keep Em Part 1-Free Agents
John Doublin – Jan 5, 2013
Every year, coaches and general managers pour over their respective rosters in an attempt to decide which players should stay with the team, and which should be let go. It's no different for Dennis Allen, Reggie McKenzie and the Oakland Raiders.
This off-season, the Raiders have 20 players who are either restricted or unrestricted free agents. That is nearly half of the game-day roster, and some decisions will have to be made.
The evaluation process goes beyond just how the player performs on the field; it also includes how the player's salary will impact the salary cap, whether or not a player's skill set fits with the future philosophy of the team, and whether or not your team can compete with the amount of money a given player may be offered on the open market.
First, let's have a look at the free agents, their status, and their 2012 salary cap numbers.
|Player||Pos.||Status||2012 Cap Hit|
(*) - Denotes adjusted cost after buyout
Obviously, there are some names on this list the Raiders can live without, as well as some names most would consider, "must sign" players. But, which are which? Who can Oakland live without, who can they not afford to lose, and whose departure would actually be better for the team?
Must Sign Players:
Phillip Wheeler is at the top of this list. Wheeler led the Raiders in tackles, tackles for loss, called the plays in the defensive huddle and was the driving force behind the Raiders improvement on defense, (as slight as it was.) Losing Wheeler would be catastrophic for Oakland.
Desmond Bryant got his chance to be an every game starter when Richard Seymour went down with injury, and proved he could be "the guy" at defensive tackle. Bryant is not a "big hog" that can anchor down and soak up double teams all day, but he's a fantastic penetrating tackle who causes constant disruption in the opponents' back field. Bryant is an absolutely critical re-sign for the Raiders.
Phillip Adams wasn't supposed to be a starter in 2012, but injuries forced him into service, and he showed that he had the ability to play good football. Adams has his faults, but his versatility as a kick returner and the lack of depth in the secondary make him a 2013 must re-sign player.
Joselio Hanson found himself pressed into service much like Adams did. He was signed as a free agent after being released by the Eagles and filled the role of Nickel corner. Once again, injuries gave Hanson the chance to get more playing time than originally expected, but he came on extremely strong as the season progressed. Again, the lack of depth and limited draft picks put Hanson on the must re-sign list.
Mike Goodson was acquired in a rare player-for-player trade when Oakland sent workout warrior Bruce Campbell to Carolina in the off season. At first it looked like a bad deal, but Goodson cured his early case of fumblitis and went on to become the Raiders leader in yards per carry. Goodson is a solid back up to McFadden and understands how to run the Zone scheme or the power scheme which puts him on this list.
Brandon Myers ended up as the Raiders' leading receiver, both in terms of receptions and yards. While it's true he sometimes struggles with his blocking assignments, a limited number of draft picks and a tight salary cap means it will be difficult for Oakland to find a better player for the money.
Omar Gaither came to Oakland mid-season and made an immediate difference. His motor never stops and he is a smart player who is rarely out of position. Even if the Raiders draft Mantei T'eo or some other "big time" prospect, Gaither is a veteran with leadership skills that are welcomed...and necessary for any team.
Who Can Oakland Live With...or Without?
Khalif Barnes being on this list is a bit surprising, but consider all the circumstances. There is no suitable replacement to start at right tackle currently on the roster, and the Raiders have a ton of needs on the defensive side that will gobble up the draft picks and free agent money. Therefore, until a replacement is found, Barnes is the best Oakland can do at right tackle...at the moment.
Matt Shaughnessy is a fan favorite, and for good reason. He is one of the best 4-3 defensive ends at setting the edge and stopping the run. He has shown some pass rush ability, but not enough to consider him "elite" by any stretch. That said, Shaughnessy's future boils down to one thing: Will the Raiders run a 4-3, or switch to the 3-4. If the switch is made, Shaughnessy will likely be the odd man out.
Brandian Ross isn't a household name, but he's a decent cornerback who can provide depth to the position. He was forced to start due to injury in 2012, and played fairly well, getting better each week. He's not a game-changer by any means, but he has a high ceiling and the sky could be the only limit for him in the future. Ross would be a nice addition for depth, and a good developmental player for the future.
Mike Mitchell has a lot of good qualities: High effort, high motor and he hits like a truck. The problem is in coverage. He's not the most disciplined player and often finds himself out of position. However, he is learning and improving and is a solid backup to Tyvon Branch.
Derek Hagan is a veteran receiver who runs nice routes and possesses good hands. He's not going to out run anyone, but he'll catch the ball and get what he can. He's also a smart veteran who is well aware of situational football, and more often than not, makes the right play.
Kaelin Burnett didn't see much time in games in 2012, but he worked his way off the practice squad and improved each week. He can rush the passer fairly well, and provides good kick and punt coverage on special teams. Unlike Shaughnessy, Burnett is a bit more versatile and can play outside linebacker in a 3-4, as well as defensive end in a 4-3.
Jeremy Stewart is not a "homerun hitter" like McFadden or Goodson, but he has good power, doesn't fumble much and can move the chains when asked to do so. Keeping him would make sense for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that both McFadden and Goodson have struggled to stay healthy and Stewart will likely come at a reasonable price.
Shane Lechler could be the greatest punter to ever play the game...no disrespect to Ray Guy, but Lechler's numbers are better. The problem is, he's also the most expensive punter in the history of the game. For a team trying to rebuild, sinking $4+ million into a punter isn't prudent business. The fans love Lechler, but if he won't sign for the right price, Marquette King is waiting in the wings, ready to go.
Who Must Go?
Matt Giordano tops this section for a reason. Yes...he's a ball-hawk, and yes...he makes big plays occasionally. However, he constantly blows his coverage assignments, and he misses more tackles than he makes. Ball-hawks are nice to have, but not at the price of giving up big plays every other down.
Cooper Carlisle has had an up-and-down career. Cut by the Broncos, signed by the Raiders, played horrible in 2010, made a comeback in 2011, and was barely serviceable in 2012. If Mike Brisiel hadn't been so terrible, Carlisle would have lost his job to rookie Tony Bergstrom. It's time to cut ties with Coop and let Bergstrom and fellow rookie Lucas Nix fight it out for the starting guard job.
Matt Leinart came to Oakland with his former quarterback coach, Greg Knapp. He took over for the injured Carson Palmer in Carolina, but failed to do anything but look like the same Leinart that couldn't beat out Derek Anderson in Arizona. Knapp is gone, and Leinart should be too.
Jamie Cumbie made an impression in preseason with his numerous batted balls. Unfortunately, that's all he can do consistently. He shows flashes of good pass rush ability, but then disappears for 20 plays in a row. He is forever getting blown up against the run and can't set the edge with any real force.
Andre Carter was signed mid-season in an attempt to generate some pass rush. He managed a whopping 2.5 sacks in 12 appearances...most of which were gifts due to pressure from Seymour, Kelly and Houston. Carter is old by NFL standards and it's time to either hang 'em up, or find a new team.
That about sums it up for the 2013 free agents McKenzie and Allen will have to evaluate before the start of 2013 training camp in June. Of course this is just speculation, and there is no way to know for sure who will stay and who will go. This is just a "best guess" article based on salary, performance and the direction of the team.
Be sure to check back with Raider Nation Times as we'll be covering the rest of the roster in Cut Em or Keep Em Parts two and three next week.
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