If you thought the Oakland Raiders’ roster overhaul was something fierce last season, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Jon Gruden isn’t done by any means as more reshaping, reconfiguration, and downright re-Chucky-fying is on the horizon with newly minted general manager Mike Mayock at his side.
The process has already begun in earnest as Raiders’ brass — and by brass, I mean Gruden — is knee-deep in determining which in-house cats get to stay in Raider Land. The Raiders’ have 21 unrestricted, 4 restricted and 7 exclusive rights free agents and there’s a more than reasonable notion many of those 33 players won’t be in the Silver & Black for the 2019 season.
Raiders Free Agents (in alphabetical order)
Unrestricted (21): CB Bene Benwikere; WR Martavis Bryant; RT T.J. Clemmings; TE Jared Cook; DT Kony Ealy; G Jon Feliciano; DB Marcus Gilchrist; G Denzelle Good; G Chaz Green, CB Leon Hall; DT Johnathan Hankins; WR Dwayne Harris; WR Brandon LaFell; DT Clinton McDonald; CB Dexter McDonald; CB Rashaan Melvin; S Reggie Nelson; K Mike Nugent, DT Ahtyba Rubin; DT Frostee Rucker; DE Jacquies Smith
Restricted (4): LB Shilique Calhoun; S Erik Harris; RB Jalen Richard; CB Daryl Worley
Exclusive (6): WR Marcell Ateman; LB Jason Cabinda; K Daniel Carlson; CB Tevin Mitchel, T Justin Murray; LS Trent Sieg
I’m breaking this into three categories: Stay, Go and Don’t Know.
Let’s start …
Jared Cook.The tight end had a career year in 2018 with 68 grabs, 896 yards and six touchdowns as quarterback Derek Carr’s favorite target. He meets Gruden’s age (31) criteria and hasn’t shown any signs of losing his athleticism. But he’ll be seeking a raise to the two-year $12.2 million deal he signed two years ago. According to The Athletic, the Raiders didn’t reach out to Cook’s agent this season and signing equally athletic Darren Waller off the Baltimore practice squad could mean a replacement is already on the roster. Plus, with a bevy of picks at their disposal, Gruden and Mayock could pluck a talented tight end prospect from the draft pool.
Daniel Carlson. The no brainer. As an exclusive rights free agent, he’s going to stay no matter what, but locking up the rook who cemented what was a revolving door at kicker has to be a priority. Going 16 of 17 on his boots (including 3-for-3 on kicks 50 yards or more), Carlson overcame a brutal start to his rookie campaign with Minnesota to set a Raiders franchise record with a 94.1 percent conversion rate.
Daryl Worley. The corner earned the coaching staff’s respect playing with a banged up labrum in his shoulder and the 23-year-old corner feels indebted to Gruden for giving him a second chance after an arrest led to his release by the Eagles. He has the size and tackling ability required for a corner in Paul Guenther’s scheme and at a young age, expect him back, if not starting opposite Gareon Conley.
Erik Harris. The special teamer showed form tackling and a knack to make plays in coverage (two interceptions). Despite his age (29 in April), Harris showed enough to merit some more playing time in the Raiders secondary. He won’t be an expensive commodity as a restricted free agent and can push other safeties off the roster.
Dwayne Harris. The Bisaccia Guy provided a much-needed spark in the Raiders return game and his brilliant play and spectacular speed broke a long time punt return for a score drought. He’s still got the juice on returns and is a quality run blocker on offense. He’s another guy that won’t be expensive to retain.
Others: Johnathan Hankins, Denzelle Good, Frostee Rucker, Shilique Calhoun, Jalen Richard, and the other exclusive rights free agents. Hankins and Good caught the eyes of the coaching staff while Rucker is the dependable veteran. Calhoun is reportedly a Rich Bisaccia favorite while Richard is a pass-catching scatback.
Reggie Nelson. The Guenther favorite is 35 and while he did snare two picks, his run in the NFL is likely over. While he may still have the brains for the game, he lost the legs a while ago. That is unless Paulie G brings him back to be a player-coach.
Marcus Gilchrist. Lauded for his understanding of the scheme, the veteran had an up-and-down season in Oakland. Capable of playing both safety and slot corner, Gilchrist did snag three interceptions. But the Raiders need to get younger at the safety spot and the 30-year-old will have other options.
Rashaan Melvin. The corner signed to be a CB1 couldn’t absorb Guenther’s scheme and style of corner play only to air the grievance on social media. It’s not a schematic match but Melvin (29) won’t be short of options on the market.
Jon Feliciano. The Raiders love his toughness and versatility but they are going to be outpriced. The player I lovingly refer to as Fat Klay (for his resemblance to the Warriors’ Klay Thompson) is going to get offers more lucrative than what the Raiders will be sending his way. And he wants to be a starter. That’s not a guarantee with Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson ahead of him in Oakland.