Expect More Drastic Changes for the Oakland Raiders in 2013

John Doublin – Feb 4, 2013

With the conclusion of Super Bowl XLVII, the 2013 NFL Season officially begins. This is when teams can begin to cut players, sign free agents and begin molding their rosters for the upcoming season. Until this point, the Oakland Raiders have been able to discuss the changes they intend to make, but haven't been allowed to actually implement them.

Anyone who follows the Raiders at all, knows the team had some serious salary cap and financial issues when general manager Reggie McKenzie took over to begin the 2012 season. "The Al Davis Scholarship Program" had players on the team who were making big money, but offering little performance to justify such big money. This led to McKenzie to cut players whose contracts were, "out of whack."

Stanford Routt and Kamerion Wimbley were the most notable of those cuts. However, there were a few more players who were let go, not because they weren't performing, but because the money they were offered by other teams was so much more that Oakland simply couldn't compete. Jason Campbell and Michael Bush lead the names of players allowed to leave via free agency.

These players were all fan-favorites, and all were let go. McKenzie has made it very clear that Oakland will not over-pay for players who do not perform at an extremely high level—fan favorite or not.

There are a number of Raiders' fan-favorites who failed to live up to expectations, or the money they made in 2012. Most, if not all of them, will be let go in an attempt to further repair the Raiders' salary cap situation. Regardless of how the fans feel about losing their favorite players, this process is a necessary evil in the world of professional sports.

If the Raiders ever hope to build a championship organization, the act of purging under-performing, over-paid players must be done without allowing emotion or fan sentiment to impede the process.

So, what does this mean for 2013? Who are the fan-favorites who could find themselves playing for another team?

Shane Lechler is perhaps the most beloved player on this list. He was drafted by the Raiders in 5th round of the 2000 draft. He and kicker Sebastian Janikowski came into the league together, and are the only players remaining from the last winning season the Raiders had. These two make up the best kicking combo in the league, bar none.

Lechler isn't just the best punter in Raiders' history, he's probably the best punter in the history of the game...no offense to Ray Guy on either statement, but Lechler's numbers are better in every category.

As always, the problem is money. Lechler was the highest paid punter in history over his most recent contract, and it's likely he'd like to stay that way. Unfortunately, other teams in better financial shape will be looking for a quality punter, and will have the money available to out-bid the Raiders to acquire his services.

When you consider that Oakland put rookie punter, Marquette King, on the "reserve/injured" list for a minor calf injury, it's pretty clear that Lechler will be flipping field position for another team in 2013.

Darrius Heyward-Bey came to Oakland with much criticism when he was drafted 7th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. Since then, Heyward-Bey made steady improvement each year and really began to show the potential Al Davis saw in him with 64 catches for 975 yards in 2011, which was far better than the player many felt should have been taken ahead of him in the draft, Michael Crabtree.

However, DHB took a huge step backward in 2012. His production waned, even with quarterback Carson Palmer putting up the 2nd best passing season in Raiders' history. Dropped passes, missed reads, and no consistent separation from defenders makes it very difficult to justify the $10.6 million he's scheduled to make in 2013.

DHB seemed to know there would be big changes in his life coming this month when he Tweeted:

"Only a week away from February, my bday month. Something tells me its going to be a very eventful and life changing month."

A prophetic statement? Only time will tell.

Tommy Kelly made headlines in 2008 when Al Davis signed the undrafted defensive tackle to the richest deal for any player at his position. This caused a big stir in the NFL community, and Raider Nation. Most felt it was a waste of money, but Kelly proved the detractors wrong.

From 2008 through 2011, Kelly was ranked in the top five in tackles and sacks among interior defensive linemen. Despite the good numbers, Kelly's haters are still alive and well.

In 2012, Kelly had moments of greatness, and moments of "what was he thinking?" A good play, followed by a stupid penalty, followed by another good play, followed by a missed tackle sums up Kelly's 2012 season.

The drop in production, constant breakdowns in composure, poorly timed penalties, and the emergence of Desmond Bryant and Christo Bilukidi could render Kelly, and his $9.374 million contract for 2013, expendable.

Richard Seymour came to Oakland in the proverbial "blockbuster trade" in 2009. The Raiders gave the Patriots a 1st round pick for the aging defensive lineman. Some fans and "experts" liked the trade, some didn't. For the most part however, Seymour lived up to expectations.

A Pro-Bowler in 2010 and 2011, Seymour seemed to have retained his high level of play. Unfortunately in 2012, his age began to show in the form of nagging knee injuries, eight missed games, producing just 12 tackles and three sacks.

Due $16.315 million in 2013, along with the emergence of the aforementioned Bryant and Bilukidi, Seymour has most likely played his last game in the Silver and Black.

/articleimages/Shaughnessy.jpgMatt Shaughnessy is a fantastic defensive end. He's played very well against the run throughout his career, and even showed some excellent pass rush skills. After missing most of the 2011 season with injury, Shaughnessy came back in 2012 and played well, but not spectacular by generating just 25 tackles and only 3.5 sacks.

Even though those numbers bely his actual value, there are certain factors which may lead to Shaughnessy's departure.

First of all, there is a need in the NFL for run stopping defensive ends, and teams who play a 4-3 base defense will be offering Shaughnessy serious money to sign with them. Second, Oakland is very close to having the personnel needed to make what most believe is a logical switch to a 3-4 base defense. In this case, Shaughnessy would likely be the odd man out.

Most fans would love to keep the former Wisconsin Badger another year to see if he can get back to the explosive player he was in 2010, but due to cap restraints and possible scheme changes, it may not be possible.

Mike Mitchell isn't a starter, but he's still a fan favorite. Raider Nation loves the big hits and high intensity style of play he brings to the field. Unfortunately, his place on the Raiders may be gone.

It's not likely he'll unseat starting strong safety, Tyvon Branch, and his cover skills aren't nearly good enough to play in the nickel package. Therefore, with the team rebuilding, Mitchell may be allowed to leave via free agency in favor of a new, younger player with more potential and upside.

Rolando McClain is still under contract, and is scheduled to make $6.675 million in 2013. However, his utter lack of effort, a complete disregard of team rules, and negative attitude toward the coaching staff landed the former 8th overall pick from Alabama on the hot seat in 2012.

McClain was suspended for the last two games of the regular season after having a war of words with head coach Dennis Allen in practice, but that's just the beginning. McClain was arrested yet again in his home town of Decatur, AL for giving police a false name after being pulled over for a window tinting violation.

It's not just the off-field issues that make McClain a "must cut" player. There is miles of game film showing him taking plays off, jogging instead of sprinting to the play, and showing little to no effort to shed blocks. It's plain to see, McClain doesn't care anymore and would rather be elsewhere.

It's likely McKenzie and Allen will grant him his wish.

In the end, this is the time of year that the wheels of the off-season begin to roll. This is just as true in Oakland as in any any other NFL organization. In coming weeks, fans will hear news of players being re-signed or being cut. Just don't be surprised to see players who are considered "fan favorites" among the casualties.

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