If you’ve been following the Raiders, then you’ve bore witness to the veritable roster purging that new general manager Reggie McKenzie has incited. For better (See: Routt, Stanford) or worse (See: Wimbley, Kamerion), only 29 players from the 2011 team remain on the roster. While some of this roster turnover is the result of a dismal cap situation, most is indicative of McKenzie’s unwillingness to tolerate anything other than production–save for the curious case of Rolando McClain.
With the obvious lack of production and ever worsening cap situation, the roster is primed further purging. This is already taking place, as illustrated by the recent departures of cornerback Ronald Bartell and fullback Owen Schmitt. What other changes lurk is the topic of today’s round table. As with yesterday, today’s participants are:
Christopher Hansen is the founder of Raidersblog.com and lead AFC West blogger for the Bleacher Report. Hansen has been covering the Raiders for the past five seasons, and it shows. Hansen’s analysis is always insightful and impartial. You can find his most recent work HERE. If you prefer brevity, then follow him on Twitter: @ChrisHansenNFL
DeMarcus Davis has been a staple in the Raiders’ press box where he provides coverage for the Silver & Black Report. A jack-of-all-trades, Davis mostly focuses on the audiovisual these days, but he will also contribute discerning prose from time to time (as you’ll see below). You can see his work HERE. You can also follow him on Twitter: @DeMarcusRFNET
Chris McClain covers the Raiders for the Silver & Black Report as well. In addition to the Raiders, McClain reports on the Sacramento Kings and Rivercats, the triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s. Check out his work HERE. And, follow him on Twitter: @SB_ChrisMcClain
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the 2013 NFL Draft, which I affectionately call Raiders’ Christmas.
EBSG: Given his $8 million cap number next season and the fact that Reggie McKenzie was groomed by an organization that doesn’t value running backs, what role will McFadden fill beyond 2012? That is, what is the likelihood he remains with the team? Also, what will the role of Reece be when McFadden returns and beyond?
CH: Reece probably should have been involved more when McFadden was healthy and should remain involved when McFadden returns. McFadden’s future hinges on the blocking scheme and the offensive coordinator. Knapp might not keep his job and that would be a factor. With his propensity for injuries, he probably doesn’t have much of a future with the team beyond his contract (up in 2013). McFadden is still young, so there’s a chance that the Raiders could sign him to a four-year extension that would get him to the magic age of 30.
DD: The problem lies in McFadden not fitting a zone blocking scheme and Reece fitting it. It’s just that simple. ZBS requires a back that’s patient running up to the line of scrimmage and then choosing the hole to run through. McFadden is a one cut and gone type of back. That’s what makes him a homerun hitter. However, he’s running up the backs on his linemen because he’s wanting to go 100 mph from the first touch of the ball and the blocks haven’t developed yet.
If the team stays with the ZBS, even if Greg Knapp is let go in the offseason, it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to see McFadden traded. Then again, his injury history will knock down his trade value a bit, but not enough to make him un-tradable (if there is such a word). If McFadden IS kept on, look for the team to ask him to restructure/extend his current contract in order to make his salary a bit more cap friendly.
CM: I personally do not believe that Darren McFadden will be on the roster after this season. His injury problems, along with his cap hit and McKenzie’s history, lead me to believe that the Raiders will pursue other options for their running back situation. With the Raiders currently having so many holes in their roster, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Raiders tried to get some ammo for this year’s NFL Draft if they can. Should they do this, McKenzie may choose to stick with Mike Goodson in the backfield or may look at what free agents are available. While Green Bay always got by at the running back position, the Raiders certainly don’t have the same prolific passing attack. It still remains to be seen which direction they go, but one thing that is certain is that the coaching staff has little confidence in Taiwan Jones, both as a pass-blocker and a running back. As for Reece, the Raiders need to do a better job of getting him the ball. He is a play maker and a tough match up for the defense when he is on the field.
EBSG: What other roster changes do you foresee in the coming offseason?
CH: There are several players on the roster with ballooning contracts that will be hard for McKenzie to keep around. Richard Seymour’s contract jumps significantly and will likely be released. Kelly and Heyward-Bey could also be gone. Rolando McClain is certainly not playing like a middle linebacker worth $4 million per season. Michael Huff’s contract also jumps, but given his successful move to cornerback he could be worth keeping around.
Matt Shaughnessy and Desmond Bryant are free agents and the Raiders should try to bring them back, but big changes are coming on defense regardless of which players return. Ron Bartell is also a free agent and the Raiders might consider keeping him around for lack of better options on the market.
Mike Brisiel, Cooper Carlisle and Khalif Barnes are all at risk of being replaced. Brisiel’s fate might be tied to Knapp and the zone scheme while Barnes and Carlisle were given one-year deals and haven’t improved in the zone scheme.
DD: You’re likely to see the most changes in the secondary and with the defensive line. Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour combined will account for 25.7mil in cap space for 2013 (Seymour ‘s cap number will be 16.3mil and Kelly 9.4mil). Just the math alone means that someone will either take a pay cut (will never happen) or someone will not be on the roster in 2013. In terms of production or available usability between the two, Seymour, with 12 years logged in the NFL, may be the odd man out. Then sprinkle in missed practices because of “veteran time off”, missed games because of “knee soreness”, and when he IS able to play, it’s for limited numbers of plays. His salary-to-productivity ratio makes him a candidate for Reggie McKenzie’s “out of whack” contract roster cuts in the very near future; that is if he doesn’t retire first or his contract expires at the end of the season.
The secondary has been the thinnest in at least a decade Starters injured, back ups starting, backups getting cut, then starters from other positions rolling over to play for said formerly cut backup, then the backup to the moved starter is faltering. The backups to the backups of the…ahh…you get the point. This secondary is so paper thin, if they receive one more injury, the whole house of cards could topple over at any minute. Heading into the season, Reggie McKenzie said that player depth was going to be an issue…and was he right on the money! Recently returned from the the Injured Reserve Ron Bartell (Editor’s Notes: Davis answered this question prior to Bartell’s release, but the info is still relevant) and Strong Safety Tyvon Branch are the only remaining week one starters at their positions. Since then, FS Michael Huff has played at right cornerback and then you have the revolving door at left cornerback until Bartell was healthy enough to resume his position.
Then there is the middle linebacker position; the position traditionally responsible for defending against the runningback in the second level. The Raiders have allowed 41 big plays (big plays are 20 yards or more). Teams are running up the middle on the Raiders AT Rolando McClain. Coaches have dialed up run blitzes for him, but he runs right by the ball carrier without even realizing he’s the ball carrier and said ball carrier runs through the gaping hole where McClain once lined up at. Or, the coaches draw up plays to have the linebackers take the “A” and “B” gaps and force the runner to string the run to the “C” gaps or the outside where the defense has help from the safety and big nickel. And yet, the runningback elects to run through the now vacated “A” gap that was to be manned by McClain, who was busy engaging the offensive lineman and not maintaining proper depth.
The kid has talent. We all seen that while he played at Alabama, but for some reason, he’s there one week, then he checks out for two.
Execution from the entire team as a whole is a major problem, but overall, the lack of consistent execution in the secondary has been the most alarming. Most of the cuts are going to come in the form of defensive players. Thus far, the Raiders defense ranks 28th in the league in yards allowed and dead last in points allowed; surpassing the New Orleans Saints for worst league defense. Last year, the team was 29th both in yardage and points allowed.
CM: As I have already stated, I wouldn’t be surprised if McFadden was elsewhere next season. I also believe that Richard Seymour may retire, or his contract voided, at the end of this season. With the team seemingly in rebuilding mode and his knees having problems, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him step away from the game to spend more time with his family. Matt Giordano has struggled with angles much of this year, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him cut though he is one of Dennis Allen’s guys. I would be shocked if the Raiders didn’t try and get something for Rolando McClain this offseason after everything that has happened. There ought to be someone out there that will give him a chance after all of the hype he had coming out of college. Maybe a team running a 3-4 similar to that of Saban’s in Alabama. Philip Wheeler only signed a one-year deal last offseason, so there’s a chance of him wanting to depart for a different team, thought I’m sure Reggie McKenzie will try and keep a hold of him.
Thanks again to Chris Hansen, Chris McClain and DeMarcus Davis for participating