Jon Gruden, Raiders HC

To Cut Or Not To Cut: That’s The Raider Question

The second Jon Gruden era kicked off with an expected jettison of a high-priced cornerback. One that would have banked a roster bonus if he remained an Oakland Raiders player come this past Wednesday.

David Amerson was the first and he won’t be the last. There’s six more well-compensated Raiders that may get axed, too. All of them leave no cap implications. Then, there’s one high-priced Raider who hasn’t lived up to the lofty price tag but does carry dead cap responsibilities if he were to get waxed.

But in total, the Silver & Black are earmarked for a $39 million savings in cap space (just above $41 if all seven were released).

Below you’ll find those seven, along with salary, on-roster replacements and likelihood of remaining. It’s not pretty. Not just the money they’re slated to earn, but also the glaring lack of depth behind them. Oakland’s got a lot of heavy lifting to do come free agency and the draft.

No dead money:

Sean Smith, 2018 salary: $8.5 million

Replacement: Dexter McDonald/Antonio Hamilton

Likely: Cut

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound corner played much better under John Pagano, but it’s Smith’s legal woes that likely torpedo his tenure as a Raider. It’s difficult to find a corner with his size and he’s best deployed as a man-press corner who bumps the receiver at the line of scrimmage. But we’ve seen what happens when he doesn’t get that contact. And at age 30, he’s not getting any faster.

Oakland is forced to scour the free agency market and nab a prospect (or two) in the draft simply because of the lackluster depth at the position.

Bruce Irvin, $8.25 million

Replacement: James Cowser

Likely: Kept

That salary seems high, but for the 15 sacks the Spruce Bruce has produced in two years as a Raider, it’s worth it for a team bereft of a pass rush. Even at age 30, the former Seahawk’s penchant to get to the QB is valuable.

He adds the same bite to defending the run and, when pressed into standard linebacker role as a cover man, Irvin was excellent in knocking Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce off the route trajectory.

Plus, James Cowser really doesn’t inspire the same way Irvin can.

Michael Crabtree, $7.69 million

Replacement: Cordarrelle Patterson

Likely: Cut

Similar to Irvin, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone else on the roster who can produce the 25 touchdowns Crabtree has in his three years as a Raider. For all the gripes the receiver has gotten about his attitude, he was Derek Carr’s go-to target in the red zone.

Do you honestly believe Patterson, Seth Roberts or Johnny Holton become that? Not even Amari Cooper is DC’s favorite target (yet). Still, there was plenty of smoke on the “Crabtree is gone” front, and that can’t be ignored.

Marshawn Lynch, $5.95 million

Replacement: DeAndre Washington/Jalen Richard/Elijah Hood

Likely: Kept

He’ll be 32 in April, yet the tailback many label eccentric showed he is still a force to be reckoned with and has at least two more productive years ahead. Gruden came back and repeatedly mentioned Oakland. And Lynch came back for the Town. 

Neither Washington, Richard or Hood fit the bill as a No. 1 workhorse half back Gruden prefers, so the Raiders add another running back in free agency or (preferably) the draft.

Jared Cook , $5.3 million

Replacement: Clive Walford/Pharoah Brown

Likely: Kept

The soon-to-be 31-year-old tight end gave the Raiders offense a legit receiving option with size and speed at the position. It was something Carr didn’t have before.

Cook made a big difference in the home win over the Chiefs and was integral in the win over the Dolphins. But his usage did fluctuate throughout the season.

His red zone targets should increase, however, he’s a valuable safety net for Carr.

Cordarrelle Patterson, $3.25 million

Replacement: Johnny Holton

Likely: Kept

Can Gruden harness the true power of what has been primarily a gadget player?

CP will earn his keep as an electrifying return man and ace gunner on special teams while flashing on offense as both a receiver and runner.  

Dead cap:

Seth Roberts, $4.45 million

Replacement: Cordarrelle Patterson

Likely: Kept

Roberts is guaranteed $2 million as a roster bonus and that is what would be left over if the Raiders were to send the wide receiver packing. Begrudgingly, Roberts remains on the roster. His blocking prowess is unmatched by other receivers below him and he runs better routes (even though his hands are suspect). Neither Patterson nor Holton have shown anything remotely close to overtaking Roberts.

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