Cornerback David Amerson was sent packing earlier this month and longest-tenured Raider Sebastian Janikowski was informed that he won’t be asked back next season. The roster turnover under new head coach Jon Gruden isn’t going to stop there, of course, but recent revelations indicate that it might not be as severe as predicted.
“Y’all are trying to get rid of all my players,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said Wednesday at the scouting combine, which is being covered by RaidersSnakePit.com’s Bill Williamson. “I’ve got free agents. Y’all want to restructure everyone’s contract. You’re running everybody out of town.”
Well, no, that’s your decision, Reggie. With input from Gruden, too.
On Wednesday, both weighed in on where the Raiders stand in regard to a long list of players whose status is questionable.
Judging by their words, Gruden and McKenzie are inclined to keep running back Marshawn Lynch, wide receiver Michael Crabtree and linebacker Bruce Irvin, and McKenzie would like to re-sign many of his own prospective free agents.
“I like Bruce Irvin,” Gruden said. “I know Bruce Irvin. I like him because he plays. If you look at play time, the amount of percentage of snaps, he’s out there all the time. He played through a back problem early in the season, and I really think he’s playing a difficult position because he’s really an edge player, and when you ask him to play over the tight end or over the offensive tackle at his size, he can get beat up. But he’s still a very good pass rusher. He plays with good effort. We just need to get him some help so that he can do the things that he does best more often.”
That doesn’t sound like talk from a coach who is looking to cut a player just so he can gain $8.5 million in salary-cap room. It sounds like a coach that understands that replacing a proven pass rusher such as Irvin is difficult on the surface and even harder to accomplish at a cheaper price.
As for Lynch, it remains to be seen whether Lynch wants to return for a second season with the Raiders. He and Gruden have met since Gruden was hired in early January. But Lynch has not made his feelings known publicly.
On Wednesday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said Lynch is expected to return next season. Why wouldn’t he, based upon what Gruden thinks of him?
“Looking at the film and a game that I broadcasted on Christmas night, there’s no question he’s still a beast that’s hard to bring down” Gruden said. “One of the reasons I’m excited to be with the Raiders is to join forces with Lynch. But we’ll see what happens. Obviously, we’ve got to take a look at the entire roster. But I’m counting on him. I’m counting on him being a big part of our football team.”
As for Crabtree, McKenzie said the Raiders starting receiver “is in our plans” for next season. Crabtree’s playing time diminished late last season, leading to speculation that his time with the Raiders had ended. That might have been the case in fired coach Jack Del Rio’s mind. But it’s Gruden’s team now, and he is open to keeping Crabtree on the team.
McKenzie had 12 unrestricted free agents to worry about once the season ended. That figure is down to 10, with Amerson and Janikowski out of the mix.
Of those 10, it’s likely that McKenzie is most interested in re-signing defensive tackle Justin Ellis, cornerback TJ Carrie, defensive end Denico Autry, long-snapper Jon Condo and maybe even middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman.
Every one of his own free agents that McKenzie re-signs, that’s one fewer new face that will be on the roster next season. So, if you liked last year’s Raiders roster, there’s a strong chance that you’re going to like the 2018 roster as well.