The Oakland Raiders will play their final preseason game on Thursday and not long after will have to cut their roster down to 53 men. Here’s a look at who I think could be on that final 53 man roster:
Derek Carr / Connor Cook
There’s Carr, the franchise QB, and then there’s a little bit of a mess. Head Coach Jon Gruden has given Cook every opportunity in the world to earn the #2 job, but he has not been able to solidify it. Luckily for him, EJ Manuel hasn’t done much better with his opportunities so far this preseason, so Gruden has an interesting decision to make.
I went with Cook for two reasons: 1) His best game (against the Lions) was better than Manuel played in any of the three games 2) He’s slightly cheaper & his rookie contract carries around $154k of dead money this year and next year if he’s waived and not claimed by another team.
At the end of the day, you’d think it would be unlikely that Manuel gets signed elsewhere, so he’d probably be available as a free agent if the Raiders hypothetically needed him at some point during the season.
Lastly, I think Gruden will take a long look at the waiver wire, but to think they’d cut both Cook AND Manuel for a veteran as the primary backup this close to the regular season is a bit of a stretch. It’s not a quick, easy thing to learn all of the terminology and be ready to go on a moments notice as early as Week 1 if something were to happen to Carr. We’ll see.
Marshawn Lynch / Doug Martin / Jalen Richard / Chris Warren III
DeAndre Washington has been on the shelf after reportedly having arthroscopic knee surgery, so I’m going to follow along with Vic Tafur’s prediction of him being placed on Injured Reserve. The Lynch/Martin 1-2 punch seems to have been a lock for quite some time now, Richard has great value as a receiving back, and Warren’s strong preseason should be enough to earn him a spot on the roster.
Jared Cook / Lee Smith / Derek Carrier
Undrafted free agent Paul Butler should be considered a strong practice squad candidate if unclaimed.
Amari Cooper / Jordy Nelson / Martavis Bryant / Dwayne Harris / Marcell Ateman / Johnny Holton
A couple of days ago, I thought Ryan Switzer was a lock and Griff Whalen had a glimmer of hope to rep the Silver & Black during the regular season, as both of them looked like intriguing slot receivers that could contribute in a variety of ways. However, Gruden sent a shock wave through the pulse of Raider Nation, as he proceeded to trade Ryan Switzer to Pittsburgh and place Griff Whalen on IR within a few hours time.
Cooper, Nelson, Bryant and Harris (return specialist) all seem to be in Gruden’s plans for 2018, so beyond that there’s probably only 1-2 roster spots left. Ateman, Holton, Seth Roberts, Isaac Whitney, Keon Hatcher and Saeed Blacknall are the ones jockeying for position, though Hatcher and Blacknall are extreme long shots and are likely only with the team if they’re added to the practice squad.
That makes it a four man race between Ateman, Holton, Roberts and Whitney.
I decided to go with Ateman, the 7th round pick who has that 6’4” size and strong hands that could be impactful in the red zone when called upon. I also went with Holton, who is a speedy vertical threat that also adds special teams value as a gunner.
The difficult one to cut, due to financial reasons, was Roberts. In this scenario, the Raiders would have to eat $4.25 million if they gave him the boot. To be honest, if I was a betting man, I’d say he’s on the team. However, is that the right move? You’re spending the money regardless at this point, so to let go of Ateman or Holton would likely be perceived negatively by fans. Carr has connected with Roberts in the clutch, with the game on the line, a fair amount of times… and those were nice. However, he consistently struggles to get seperation and has quite the drop issue. So much so, that he’s earned the nickname “Seth Droperts”, which isn’t good. Hopefully, if kept, he becomes “Gruden Grinder of the Year” and finally turns the corner for good.
Kolton Miller / Donald Penn / Ian Silberman / David Sharpe / Brandon Parker
To keep it simple, I chose Parker because of his draft status, Sharpe for his raw potential, and Silberman because of his ability to play both tackle and guard.
If there’s one guy I want to plug in here, it’d probably be Denver Kirkland. I’m just a twitter GM though, so forming an NFL roster is clearly not my thing.
Rodney Hudson / Kelechi Osemele / Gabe Jackson / Jon Feliciano
Although Feliciano has struggled with snapping the ball as a center, he’s still a good player and will provide solid depth on the interior.
Khalil Mack / Bruce Irvin / Arden Key / Tank Carradine / Fadol Brown / Shilique Calhoun
I could not cut Brown or Calhoun here, although they’re both likely right on the edge of the roster bubble. Brown’s versatility as a rusher, both inside and outside, gives Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther a strong guy that’s versatile on the defensive line. Calhoun, on the other hand, has improved SO MUCH in such a short period of time. The 2016 third round pick was drafted as a bit of a raw project, but he seems to finally be setting the potential aside and has replaced that with real production. Sure, it’s just preseason, but cutting him while he’s finally turning the corner seems unwise.
Justin Ellis / Mario Edwards Jr / Maurice Hurst / PJ Hall
Ellis, Hurst, and Hall are all making this roster. Edwards on the other hand? That’s a tough call, but I’m going to give him the nod here. He’s shown enough promise in past regular season games to make me think that he can still positively produce, especially under an improved coaching staff.
I’m bummed that I didn’t include Treyvon Hester.
Derrick Johnson / Tahir Whitehead / Emmanuel Lamur / Marquel Lee / Nicholas Morrow
I think this is pretty straight forward. Azeem Victor and Jason Cabinda have got to be practice squad candidates if they go unclaimed.
Gareon Conley / Rashaan Melvin / Daryl Worley / Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie / Nick Nelson / Leon Hall
The only guy here that could go, assuming Worley isn’t suspended right out of the gate, is Hall. However, his versatility to play inside or outside and his experience in this scheme give him a strong chance to make it.
Antonio Hamilton, in my opinion, is good enough to make another NFL team if this prediction holds true. Most coaches would probably keep Hamilton and cut Hall, but the current staff loves vets and that has to play a role here.
Marcus Gilchrist / Erik Harris / Karl Joseph / Reggie Nelson
Reggie-freaking-Nelson. His knowledge of what Guenther runs, along with the overall scheme being a proven fit for his style of play, likely keeps him on the team.
K Eddy Piñeiro / P Johnny Townsend / LS Andrew DePaola
It’ll get interesting if Piñeiro is still being hampered by the groin issue, as it’ll likely force Oakland to IR him and possibly keep Mike Nugent (or sign someone off the waiver wire).
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