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Sources have confirmed to SB Nation Bay Area that Oakland Raiders free agent running back Michael Bush flew down to Arizona today to conduct a workout and interview with the Arizona Cardinals. The Raiders free agent back is one of the more highly sought after running backs on the market following the wave of running back franchise tags.
While Michael Bush is a guy the Raiders might love to retain, the salary numbers make it incredibly difficult. The Raiders managed to get back under the salary cap by the start of the new league year, but it is just barely so. Bush has been connected with a variety of teams, with some folks thinking the Cincinnati Bengals might look to use him to replace Cedric Benson. The Cardinals have a host of running backs, so this is an intriguing possibility for them. Of course, give the banged-up nature of their backs, adding a guy like Michael Bush could be right up their alley.
For the Raiders, losing Bush would mean hoping for health from Darren McFadden, which has been a frequent issue in his career. Taiwan Jones showed some explosiveness, but the Raiders likely need to add some kind of significant depth behind McFadden.
The Oakland Raiders have to dump a lot of salary cap this offseason to meet requirements of the new cap. And they're going to have to get rid of a lot of players if they plan on meeting things.
Jason La Canfora of NFL.com has the latest report that has the Raiders parting ways with their starting tight end.
Boss caught only 28 passes with the Raiders last year, down from 35 catches in 2010 and 42 catches in 2009 with the Giants. So his production has been down in his newest spot, so it's not the biggest cap casualty the Raiders would have had to deal with. Boss has been underutilized in Oakland, and it makes sense to move on from him.
Could Boss end up back with the Giants, who are now in need of a tight end? It's quite possible.
To discuss the thought of Boss being released by the Raiders, head on over to Silver and Black Pride.
The 2012 league year kicks off in just three days when NFL free agency officially opens. Each team has until then to re-sign their own players, but inevitably some players, no matter how good, will end up wearing new uniforms in 2012. One of those players may be Oakland Raiders running back Michael Bush.
NFL.com senior writer Steve Wyche considers Bush to be the NFL's best running back to become a free agent on the 13th ahead of Cedric Benson, Mike Tolbert, Peyton Hillis and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and he believes that Bush will be suited up in a Bengals uniform in 2012.
Bush is a capable starter and might be a nice fit in Cincinnati, where Cedric Benson won't be re-signed.
Bush has spent his four-year career as the team's backup running back to Darren McFadden. That doesn't mean that he hasn't seen his fair share of carries though. McFadden has yet to finish a full season in his four-year career, including 2011 when he just played in seven games. Bush has been an able backup for the team, which he showed in 2011 by running for 977 yards and seven touchdowns.
Bush wants to be the top back for a team and staying with Oakland won't get him any closer to making that happen.
The Raiders have released 32-year old cornerback Chris Johnson. Johnson was chosen in the seventh round, out of Louisville, by Green Bay, and played for the Packers for two seasons. He later went to the St. Louis Rams in 2005, and had played with the Oakland Raiders for five seasons from 2007 to 2011. He, along with Stanford Routt, started at corner for the Raiders last year and now they're both gone.
Clearing out more salary-cap space, the Raiders released veteran cornerback Chris Johnson. No Stanford Routt, no Chris Johnson.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2012
Johnson, 32, was entering the final year of his contract and was scheduled to earn $3.5 million in base salary, which also represents his salary cap savings. Between the release of Johnson, and restructured contracts of Carson Palmer, Richard Seymour and Michael Huff, the Raiders have trimmed around $25 million in cap space this week.
To discuss Johnson, Routt, and the Raiders, head on over to Silver and Black Pride.
The Oakland Raiders overextended themselves with a few of their current contracts, and now must figure out a way to restucture some contracts for key players to make it under their current budget, including quarterback Carson Palmer and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley.
Oakland is currently $22 million over the cap and needs Wimbley to take a significant cut from the $43.5 million he is owed over the next four season. IF not, the team will have no choice but to release him by March 13. the 28 year old agreed to a $4.1 million salary, then a $11.3 million franchise tag, then a cap-friendlier, five year, $48 million contract, all within a six month span last season. He's due $11 million next season, with $6.5 million of it guaranteed already, the rest becomes guaranteed on March 17.
As for Carson Palmer, he will need to restructure as well, which has three years and $40.5 million left in it's current terms. $5 million of his $12 million salary next season is guaranteed.
These decisions will certainly have a trickle down effect to other players like linebacker Aaron Curry, safety Michael Huff, and defensive tackles John Henderson and Tommy Kelly, all who may need to restructure as well.
For more on the Raiders, head over to Silver and Black Pride.
The Oakland Raiders officially franchised Tyvon Branch earlier today. Branch was the team’s leading tackler last season and was a natural candidate for being franchised after his great season which saw him lead the team in tackles the past two years. Branch has also improved his safety coverage instincts, as the passing offense has greatly declined when footballs are thrown in his direction in comparison to his 2010 statistics. Branch’s contract is worth around $6.2 million for 2012 and should ensure he’s happy to stay in Oakland for quite some time.
The Raiders have a lot of cap space to dump, which means you could see a lot of Raiders in the next couple of days (including Michael Bush) start testing the free agent waters and look for other teams to sign with for better deals. Oakland has to be happy to be keeping Branch around for the near future though.
To discuss the Branch signing with Raiders fans, go to Silver and Black Pride.
The Oakland Raiders appeared to be a one-way street to a playoff berth through the first half of the 2011 season. Then they were beset by injuries and forced to acquire a seasoned quarterback. The team signed Carson Palmer and missed out on a trip to the postseason. Palmer will return next year, but many questions surround his role in 2012.
Paul Gutierrez of CSN Bay Area reports that Palmer appeared on Sirius XM radio Wednesday. During his interview, Palmer touched on many aspects of his 2011 season with the Raiders, as well as the offseason ahead. He discussed what he's going to work on this season, as well as working with new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp.
I'm getting ready to head up to L.A. to train. The guy I've been training with for the last seven or eight years has a gym up there and that's where I spend the offseason, getting ready with him. I've been in contact with all my receivers and even guys like Marcel Reece and Kevin Boss, David Ausberry, some younger guys that Raider fans haven't heard of that they should be excited about. We'll get together in L.A. and have some throwing sessions set up before we get back to Oakland and before we get the playbook. Before we get to 7-on-7 sessions and the team drills that we're going to be doing in OTAs and minicamps. We have a chance to get our feet and just kind of get back in the swing of things before we're out in front of the coaches and in front of the organization, just to kind of get the rust off and get ready for those OTAs. We don't just show up at OTAs and say, all right, let's go. We want to be prepared and at least somewhat on the same page or as close to being on the same page as we can be heading into OTAs.
He was also asked how healthy he feels.
Health, 100 percent. Most quarterbacks this time of year, you're feeling probably as good as you're going to feel, I probably feel as good as I'm going to feel in all of 2012 and 2013. I was fortunate to come out of the season without any offseason surgeries or any big rehab concerns. I only played in a handful of games so I didn't have a chance to get beat up or worn down. We finished the year at the O in front of our fans and didn't finish the way we wanted playing against the Chargers, but after that, I felt as good as I've ever felt in my entire career at the end of the season because I only played barely half the season.
Palmer also talked about how he doesn't feel he needs a change of scenery, is excited about working with the team again this season and in particular praised young wide receiver Denarius Moore. He thinks there is a lot of room for growth with the young wideouts. We will see how their development comes along in 2012.
Don't be surprised if MIchael Bush goes to the Bengals and the Bengals not sign Cedric Benson— John Clayton (@ClaytonESPN) March 2, 2012
With Oakland choosing to use their franchise tag on strong safety Tyvon Branch, it's expected that the cash-strapped Raiders will not be able to afford to re-sign their dependable veteran running back, Michael Bush. Cincinnati, on the other hand, has some cap space and could offer Bush a starting job.
Also importantly, Hue Jackson, the Raiders head coach last season, is now an assistant with the Bengals. It would give Bush a chance to move a little closer to his hometown of Louisville and a coaching staff that would know how to use him. As ESPN's AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley points out:
At 27, Bush doesn't have the usual wear-and-tear of other free-agent running backs because he's been a backup for most of his career. He's a bruising runner who can gain the tough yards. He's also an above-average receiver, which would add another element to the Bengals' passing game.
For more on the Raiders, head over to Silver and Black Pride.
The Raiders had two players headed into free agency this season that could justifiably had the franchise tag used on them. The first is strong safety Tyvon Branch, the second is back up running back Michael Bush. Both play major roles for the Raiders and both would likely be able to find high paying, starting roles elsewhere if they hit the free agent market.
News broke today that it is going to be Tyvon Branch who gets the franchise tag as opposed to Michael Bush. This is a rather smart move by new Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie. Branch is a young and very talented safety who has been one of the Raiders most consistent defensive players since being drafted in 2008. Branch has continued to show improvement every season, and looks very much like he is on his way to being a pro bowl caliber player.
Bush, on the other hand, was with out a doubt, the best back up running back in the NFL last season. Bush has been a huge contributor for the Raiders as a result of Darren McFadden's perennial injury issues. However, despite that fact, he is still the back up to McFadden. Tagging bush would have meant vastly overpaying a back up. Something that is really not an option considering the Raiders current cap issues.
However, by not tagging Bush, the Raiders are admitting to the fact that they will be saying good bye to the best back up running back in the NFL. Bush likely has his sights set on a big contract and a starting gig, and justifiably so. It is highly unlikely that the Raiders will be able to compete with the offers that Bush will field in the free agent market as they will struggle to remain under the salary cap without overpaying for a back up.
Personally, I will be very sad to see Bush leave the Raiders, but I also understand that its just part of the game. Though it is not official that he is gone yet, I'd like to take a moment to wish him the best of luck on his new team, just as long as that team does not play in the AFC West.
Tyvon Branch is one of those underrated safeties who probably doesn't get enough credit for his work on the football field. Branch has been with the Oakland Raiders for four years after being drafted out of UConn and has gotten progressively better year after year. He has been averaging over 100 tackles the past three seasons, and along with free safety Michael Huff and cornerbacks Chimdi Chekwa and Stanford Routt combine to form one of the most talented backlines in the NFL.
Branch is going to be rewarded handsomely for his good works.
Raiders have informed S Tyvon Branch he will be franchised. #insideslant— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 1, 2012
Remember Oakland is well over the cap, so they need to figure out who they're planning to cut to get the team back in financially stable mode. But it appears Branch is too valuable to the future of the Raiders defense to let loose to free agency.
To discuss Branch and the Raiders, head on over to Silver and Black Pride.
The NFL will announce the new salary cap for 2012 in the coming days, but no matter what, the Oakland Raiders are looking to be significantly over the number. Based on early estimations, the Raiders could be as much as $22 million over the coming salary cap, which means they will need to do plenty of work to get under the cap by the start of the league year.
They began their work by releasing cornerback Stanford Routt, and they may be moving on to bigger contract issues. Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley is due to make $11 million this season and has a chance to trigger as much as $19 million in future guarantees if he is not released by March 13 (the start of the league year). He already has $6.5 million in guarantees, but that $4.5 million difference would certainly help get closer to the cap. Either way, given the Raiders cap situation they need to move a sizable chunk of that money off the table this year.
Wimbley was second on the team in 2011 with 7.0 sacks and fourth with 52 total tackles. He also had one interception and seven tackles for a loss.
Many were unsure if the Raiders would try to bring Palmer back, seeing he was Jackson's boy and vice versa. Palmer touched on that subject, but reiterated the fact that he's "doesn't want a change in scenery" and that he is "happy where I am."
"A lot of guys on the team were close with Hue, and good friends, and looked up to Hue in a lot of different ways. It's going to be different. It sounds like things are really changing in a lot of different areas and going in a number of different directions. So, it will be exciting, and this team will be ready to roll once the offseason kicks off in April."
Some feel that with the sweeping changes across the board in the Raiders front office that 2012 may have some growing pains in their first year under new management. But not Palmer, who believes the Silver and Black have themselves a championship caliber squad:
"As far as being close to a playoff team, it's more than that," Palmer said. "We're close to a championship team. There's a lot of work that needs to be put in and a lot of hurdles that we need to get over, but we need to be heading into this season thinking more than just playoffs."
The Raiders missed the playoffs once again with an 8-8 record after starting the year out with much promise. They now haven't made the playoffs since 2002, but as the 49ers taught us all in 2011, a big change can produce immediate results from time to time. Maybe something similar is in store across the Bay.
For more on the Raiders, head over to Silver and Black Pride.
The last time Greg Knapp was the offensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders, he had a rookie runningback with tons of potential, at his disposal. This time, as Knapp prepares for his second stint as the Raiders offensive coordinator, he has that same back, but now he is coming off of a break out season and looks like he is finally ready to be a premier back in the NFL.
That's right, Knapp was the offensive coordinator when McFadden first came into the league. At first, that gave me pause. I mean, we all agree that McFadden had a break out season in 2011. Thus, it made me wonder whether the coaches he played under before, were not using him correctly.
That thought process came to an end when I remembered the first Kansas City game in McFadden's rookie season. It was the second game of the season and McFadden went for 146 yards on the ground with one touchdown, averaging 7.8 yards per carry. He looked like he could be DOMINANT.
Then McFadden got turf toe, and never looked the same that rookie season. Now, with Knapp coming back to the Raiders, he has said that he believes McFadden is the perfect type of running back to play in his zone blocking scheme. "He doesn't mess around when he runs. When he makes a cut, he's going north and south. And he has the ability to go the distance any time the ball is in his hands" said Knapp.
For those of you not familiar with the zone blocking scheme, it is designed for a back to make one cut, then head up field, getting as many yards as possible in the process. This was the scheme that took Justin Fargas, a career back up, and made him look like a legitimate starter.
With McFadden's combination of speed and his discipline not to dance around in the back field, this truly could end up being a match made in heaven. Only time will tell, but Knapp is certainly excited to have McFadden in his backfield.
The Oakland Raiders have tended to spend a lot of money. Exorbitant contracts to various players who probably weren't worth the cost have killed this team's upward mobility. The Raiders haved tied in too much money to their biggest players, and that is going to end up biting them.
In two weeks, each team must be in compliance with the 2012 salary cap, whatever that number may be. In the offseason, cap compliance is based on the cap numbers of the 51 highest-paid players on the roster.
The Raiders may have to dump more than a few of their top 51 in order to get under the cap.
Based on the "top 51″ report for each team as of February 28, a copy of which PFT has obtained, the Raiders stand at $145.7 million. That’s more than $16 million more than the next team, the Giants.
Al Davis has left the Raiders in a tough spot. Too many big deals to too many players will force Oakland to have to trim back and let players go the next few months. It won't be an easy transition for any of the involved parties.
Paul Gutierrez of CSN Bay Area has a list of the top contracts, and it's looking like at least $20 million in contracts must be released. Pick and choose who should go.
DT Richard Seymour $14,068,000
QB Carson Palmer $12,500,000
LB Kamerion Wimbley $11,850,000
CB Stanford Routt $10,785,334
FS Michael Huff $9,828,750
RB Darren McFadden $9,478,833
DT Tommy Kelly $8,874,266
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey $8,159,000
LB Aaron Curry $5,757,500
P Shane Lechler $4,900,000
TE Kevin Boss $4,750,000
DT John Henderson $4,750,000
PK Sebastian Janikowski $4,500,000
CB Chris Johnson $4,500,000
LB Rolando McClain $3,640,000
OG Cooper Carlisle $3,300,000
FS Hiram Eugene $2,500,000
DE Lamarr Houston $1,116,250
SS Mike Mitchell $965,500
To talk about the Raiders and who they might have to dump with regards to salary, head on over to Silver and Black Pride.
Former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard made an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio to discuss his future following back surgery that ended his chances at a 2011 season. Garrard had surgery in October for a herniated disc in his back. He proclaimed his back to be 100% and that he is about 90-95% towards being in football shape. Garrard declared he is open to returning to the Jaguars, but when asked about potentially playing for the Raiders, he said he would not be against it.
After Jason Campbell went down with a broken collarbone, Garrard was mentioned in connection with the Raiders. Of course, this happened right before Garrard announced he needed back surgery and that rumor quickly died. The Raiders acquired Carson Palmer at that point and he is their quarterback moving forward.
The Raiders roster currently includes Palmer, Campbell, Kyle Boller, Terrell Pryor and Rhett Bomar. Given how much Kyle Boller has struggled at times, the team is likely looking to upgrade at the backup QB spot. Pryor is likely not ready to handle a primary backup role, which means a temporary option like Garrard could make some sense. Although free agency does not start until March 13, Garrard is allowed to sign at any time because of his release at the beginning of the season.
The Oakland Raiders are ready to embark on a new era of football and that begins with a strong showing at the 2012 NFL Draft. Even though the team will be limited with their moves after dealing away most of their top-round picks, there is still plenty of room to improve in the later rounds. New head coach Dennis Allen knows this and spoke with the media on Friday. Among the big talking points: his defensive scheme, staff, and facing the Denver Broncos twice a year.
You can find the complete Q&A with coach Allen from Steve Corkran and the Contra Costa Times here.
On his scheme and the misconceptions about it:
Q: Mentioned at press conference think too much is made of 4-3, 3-4 system, have you identified a primary base defense or something working through?
Allen: Those are really all the things we're still working through. We'll see, after we go through free agency, after we go through the draft, which grouping gives us the best chance to be successful. I would expect that we'll be very multiple in that regard.
With the limited supply of draft picks at their disposal, Allen and the Raiders will have to act swiftly and hope for a little bit of luck in the offseason.
The head coach discussed his defensive coordinator, Jason Tarver, and just how much he'll have interact with the defensive unit:
Q: What can you tell us about Jason Tarver, your choice for D-coordinator?
Allen: I think Jason Tarver is an extremely bright young coach. He was a part of the San Francisco 49ers defenses, and I thought they were extremely well coached, extremely talented, when I interviewed Jason, there was no doubt in my mind that this is a guy who had answers for everything. I'm extremely excited about working with him, and I think, with him and the defensive staff as well as myself being involved in the defense, I'm excited about our opportunities.
Q: How hands on will you be with the defense?
Allen: I'll be involved. I'll be involved in both aspects of the team. Offense, defense, special teams, all of it. But I would say, especially this first year, I'll probably spend a little bit more time with the defense.
Coach Allen gave a brief insight into his first few months on the job and how everything has gone thus far:
Q: How would you describe first couple of months on the job? Anything unexpected, surprises?
Allen: Fast. Fast. Well, I think one of the things that you find out as a head football coach is that it's difficult to put together a good staff, because there's a lot of guys that you might want to try to get that you can't get out of other contracts and different roadblocks and hurdles that you got to jump over, but I think we weathered that storm and the one thing that I wanted to make sure that we did, was I didn't want to rush into anything or hurry into anything, and I think having that patience allowed us to put together a good staff.
It certainly seems like he has a strong handle on everything and the next few months will be critical to building for future success in Oakland.
And finally, he talked about facing the Broncos twice a year in the AFC West:
Q: Excited about going up against Broncos twice a year?
Allen: I think I'm excited about going up against everybody next year. I wouldn't single them out any differently. I obviously have a lot of respect for what they've done over there. I think John Elway, Brian Zanders, John Fox do a tremendous job and I know they'll have the team ready to play whenever we go up against them and we'll do our best to have our team ready to play going up against them.
Good stuff all around. Once the games begin, though, I hardly doubt the relations between the two sides will stay as friendly as they are now.
For more on the Raiders and to discuss their draft plans moving forward, head on over to Silver and Black Pride.
While the Raiders lack of draft picks means that Raider news from the NFL scouting combine is few and far between, it does not mean that there is nothing of value to be learned this week.
The second half of the 2011 season was dominated with talk about Darren McFadden's foot injury and when the Raiders top running backwould be able to return to the field, if at all. In an interview at the combine, Oakland Raiders new head coach, Dennis Allen briefly discussed the topic of star Darren McFadden.
Allen confirmed what most had already assumed about McFadden. Not only will McFadden be back with the Raiders in 2012, he is expected to be completely healed and ready to go for the season. However, Allen did give two other nuggets of information that are somewhat interesting.
First, Allen stated that the team received a good evaluation on McFadden, and that the running back was back in Oakland and has begun working out. This is very good news. While most assumed McFadden would be ready for the 2012 season, there were still concerns that he may not be able to participate fully in training camps and possibly the pre season. Hopefully, this report is a confirmation that he is close to full health and will be able to take part in all of the off season programs.
Next, and most interestingly, Allen said that the team would be looking into the turf used at the practice facilities to determine whether or not it may have played a roll in the rash of foot injuries that plagued the Raiders in 2011. While many presumed the large number of injuries was due to the shortened off season, it is good to know that Allen is not taking any chances and wants to at least rule out the possibility that the practice field had something to do with it.
According to various reports, former Oakland Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt has agreed to terms on a three-year, $19.6 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. The deal also includes a $4 million signing bonus.
"Stanford has a proven record of success in the NFL," Crennel said. "He's a talented player that has spent seven seasons in the AFC West, so he is familiar with us and our division opponents. We are excited to have Stanford join the team, and we are looking forward to getting started."
The Oakland Raiders are in one of their most intense rebuilding offseasons in franchise history. They have a multitude of questions to answer and scenarios to look at. The latest wrinkle begins on Monday, which is the first day that NFL teams can apply franchise tags to impending free agents. Teams will have until March 5 to decide whether to apply a franchise tag, before free agency begins on March 13.
Gregg Rosenthal at NBC Sports recently posted a column looking at which players are most likely to receive the franchise tag from their current team. He believes that the Raiders will consider applying the tag to running back Michael Bush, but that the tag will likely go to Tyvon Branch.
The old Raiders would tag Bush. New G.M. Reggie McKenzie knows he doesn’t need to pay that much for a back, especially with Darren McFadden on the roster. Safety Tyvon Branch is a better candidate in Oakland. A long-term deal with Branch seems more likely.
Levi Damien at Silver and Black Pride points out that the franchise tag on Bush would run in the neighborhood of $7.7 million for 2012, which would have him earning more than $2 million more than the starting running back, Darren McFadden. That's very unlikely to happen and difficult to justify. It seems more likely that Bush will test the open market, possibly searching for a team where he can be the starting RB.
For all news and information regarding the Raiders, please visit Silver and Black Pride.
The Oakland Raiders will be in a tough position with one of their running backs this offseason. Michael Bush, the team's leading rusher in 2011, is set to become an unrestricted free agent and considering the fact that he wants to be a team's feature back, he probably doesn't want to be in a Raiders uniform in 2012. The problem in Oakland is that Darren McFadden is the team's feature back, but in his four years with the team, he has yet finish a whole season. Last year, McFadden only played in the first seven games of the year before he was sidelined with a foot injury.
The Raiders want to keep Bush in their backfield, but in order to do so, they'll likely have to use the franchise tag on him. According to the Contra Coast Times' Steve Corkran, Bush could have played his last game as an Oakland Raider.
Running back Michael Bush wants to be a starting running back. He realizes that isn't apt to happen in Oakland as long as Darren McFadden is on the roster.
Therefore, Bush likely won't be interested in a long-term contract. Given that, the Raiders have to decide whether they want to use the franchise tag on Bush, to the tune of $7.7 million or so for 2012.
McKenzie has a history of working for a team that finds unheralded running backs and develops them into productive players. He also has McFadden and Taiwan Jones on the roster.
That makes it unlikely that Bush will be franchise-tagged. If so, the only other player who might get that designation is strong safety Tyvon Branch.
There are plenty of teams that could use help in the backfield and go after Bush if he hits the market. One of the favorites is the Cincinnati Bengals, who are likely moving away from Cedric Benson and have too many holes in their roster that not having to spend a top pick on a running back could really help them.
For more on the Raiders, head to Silver and Black Pride.
Free agency in the NFL opens up in less than a month and teams are looking to find a way to gain an edge over their competition in the coming season before the draft in April. There are some big names on the free agent market this season and teams could spend some major money to make themselves better. The Raiders are no exception.
Oakland had the 27th-ranked pass defense in the league in 2011 and the loss of top cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha before last season hurt them. CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco believes that the team could benefit from acquiring free agent cornerback Brandon Carr from the Chiefs.
The Raiders love to play man coverage and Carr is one of the best. He has the Oakland look about him. Plus, he knows the division.
The Chiefs undoubtedly want to keep Carr around but they also have to worry about re-signing top wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. The Chiefs have a lot of money to spend but it's possible that they could let one of those two players walk away. If they do, the Raiders could really benefit from having Carr in their defensive backfield.
For more on the Raiders, head to Silver and Black Pride.
The Oakland Raiders were looking to add depth to their secondary after releasing Stanford Routt earlier this year and they did so on Thursday with the signing of cornerback Brandon Underwood. The sixth round pick in 2009 saw some time on the field with the Packers last season, mostly with the special teams unit. The team announced the signing via their official Twitter page.
The Oakland Raiders have signed free agent DB Brandon Underwood.— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) February 16, 2012
Underwood comes with plenty of baggage, although new general manager Reggie McKenzie must know him pretty well after working in the Green Bay front offices for quite some time. Mac's Football Blog provides some details on the off-field issues:
Underwood's tenure with the Packers was marred by a pair of off-field arrests, one for having non-marital sexual intercourse in an act of prostitution during an incident at a charity golf event in June of 2010. Underwood was fined $379 for that incident and the record will be expunged within a year.
Last year, Underwood was charged with domestic disorderly conduct after allegedly ripping a necklace of his estranged wife's neck after the Packers' Super Bowl ring ceremony. Underwood was fined a little over $700 for that incident.
Not necessarily a big-time signing, but Underwood presents very little risk and could be a valuable backup cornerback and/or special teams player for Oakland.
For more on the team, head on over to Silver and Black Pride.
While everyone bashed the Raiders secondary as being pathetic, few took the time to observe the massive difference in quality between the two secondary units. The Raiders cornerbacks was probably the worst group in the league. The Raiders safeties, on the other hand, were a strong suit for the Raiders defense this year.
Lead by strong safety Tyvon Branch, the Raiders produced pretty strong play by their safeties. Michael Huff did not replicate his 2010 season that earned him a large contract, but he also did not slide back towards the player that most believed was not living up to his potential.
When Hiram Eugene went down for the season with an injury during the preseason, many were concerned about the depth at safety. Then the Raiders went out and signed free agent safety Matt Giordano (Cal fans will remember him from the days he patrolled the secondary at Memorial Stadium for the Cal Bears). While Giordano obviously has some flaws in his game and should not be a starter, he proved to be incredibly valuable as a back up. Huff was forced to miss some time with injuries and Giordano stepped in and made plays. By the end of the season, he led the Raiders with 5 interceptions.
Both Huff and Branch are still coming into their own, and both have potential to be in the discussion for the pro bowl in the next few years. While the rest of the defensive units have a lot of issues, the safeties look to be a group that should only improve from here.
The offensive line has been a liability for the Oakland Raiders since the 2003 season. Robert Gallery was drafted to be the team's left tackle of the future, but became merely a good left guard. A guard is important for a power rushing team like Oakland, but nothing solidifies a line like a dominant left tackle. This year it became clear that the Raiders may have found their dominant left tackle in the form of Jared Veldheer. He was excellent in both rush blocking and pass protection and seems a natural fit at the position.
Next to Veldheer, replacing Gallery at left guard, was rookie Stefen Wisniewski. He had the typical rookie mistakes, getting called for his share of false start and holding penalties, but in general he showed tremendous promise and upside and should be a fixture at left guard for years to come, giving the Raiders a dominant left side of the line.
At center, Samson Satele played very well and showed that he was an excellent signing by the team. Without him in the lineup the offense really suffered. He's not usually a player that you notice when you watch the game, but you notice the offense goes down the toilet when he's out, so that shows his value pretty clearly.
On the right side, Cooper Carlisle and Khalif Barnes are on the old side and were never that great to begin with, and will need to be replaced in the next few seasons. Luckily, the Raiders have some young offensive linemen waiting for their opportunity in Bruce Campbell and Joseph Barksdale. Both will have to develop more before cracking the starting lineup, but both have ideal size and measurables. It remains to be seen whether they become starting caliber linemen or if the Raiders will have to search further for the answers on the right side.
The Raider line did a pretty good job overall last season. The running game was effective and Jason Campbell and Carson Palmer, neither of whom are the most mobile of quarterbacks, were not sacked an inordinate amount of times. The Raiders' last two drafts have produced two high-quality starters and they deserve a high grade.
2011 Grade: B+
The Oakland Raiders are making some big overhauls this offseason. The old coaching staff has been swept away and they're starting to look at their personnel as well. A key figure has been released today.
The Raiders have released cornerback Stanford Routt.— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) February 9, 2012
Routt has been a pretty stout defender for the past few seasons in Oakland, but he struggled last year and mad e alot of mistakes. 95.7 the Game seems to believe that Routt was the most penalized player in the NFL last season, although there are no figures to back it up. But Routt did make plenty of mistakes last year, which is probably why Oakland felt it best to move on.
Tthe Raiders released him despite the team restructuring the Routt contract this offseason to a five year deal and still having to eat $20 million in guaranteed money. But the Raiders probably wanted to cut him now because the deal New Oakland management appears to be serious about this whole rebuilding deal.
To talk about releasing Routt and the Raiders in general, head on over to Silver and Black Pride.
Like the rest of the Oakland Raiders team, the wide receiver corps had an up and down year. The "up" was Darrius Heyward-Bey blossoming into a true threat and a formidable player, where once he had been considered a total flop and the ultimate epitome of Al Davis' failed draft strategy. Also, rookie Denarius Moore vastly outperformed his fourth-round pick status and became an extremely dangerous weapon in the Raider passing game. The "down" was the collective wide receiving unit showing flashes of greatness just before they got injured and carried off the field on a stretcher, Ben-Hur chariot race style.
Injuries hit the Raiders hard everywhere, most notably the secondary, but the wide receivers also suffered a tremendous amount of lost playing time. Jacoby Ford missed eight games to injury, Louis Murphy missed seven, Moore missed three and even Heyward-Bey missed two. In fact, the only Raider "receiver" to play all 16 games was Michael Bush, who finished with a little over 400 receiving yards.
Early on in the season, Jason Campbell's lack of deep accuracy cost the Raider wideouts their biggest asset- their elite downfield speed. You'd be hard pressed to find a group of receivers faster than Oakland's. Very few corners are able to keep up with one of them, let alone an entire secondary hanging with Ford, Heyward-Bey and Moore on a single play. With Carson Palmer at quarterback, the Raider passing game really began to show the talents of the receivers. With his stats extrapolated over a full season, Palmer would have thrown for over 4,000 yards and we may be talking about the Raiders WR group as one of the best in the AFC, if not the entire league.
So really this is the same story as all the other offensive positions. The Raiders had a tough year, but things are looking up and should be better next season. Considering their awful luck with injuries this season, I feel the Raider receivers did about as well as may be expected of them.
2011 Grade: B+
The Oakland Raiders secondary was easily the worst part of the team in 2011. Pass defense has been a strong suit for the Raiders for years. To say that it was a liability this year is an understatement. After refusing to make any effort to re-sign Nnamdi Asomugha, the Raiders signed Stanford Routt to number one corner back money. The problem is, Routt is not a number one corner, and the Raiders failed to go out and get an adequate option to play opposite of Routt.
Chris Johnson was hampered with injuries all year, but even when he was healthy, it seemed like he had completely forgotten that the NFL has pass interference rules. With Johnson's injury issues, Chimdi Chekwa's injury issues and DeMarcus Van Dyke not playing particularly well, the Raiders went out and signed Lito Sheppard.
With that cast of characters, it is not surprising how terribly the Raiders pass defense performed this year. But, with that being said, it is not a unit that needs a complete overhaul. When he was not injured, Chimdi Chekwa played pretty well for the Raiders. He showed a ton of potential, and looked more game read than Van Dyke.
Van Dyke on the other hand, has the tools to be a good corner in the NFL. Erik Davis, a Super Bowl winning defensive back for the San Francisco 49ers and current host on 95.7 The Game picked Van Dyke as the Raider he expects to show the biggest jump in performance next season. He said that he has the ability to be great and just needs to learn to be more patient. He believes that Van Dyke tries too hard to make an impact, rather than being patient and picking his spots.
If the two promising young corners improve next season, the Raiders really just need to dump Sheppard and Johnson then go out and find a number two corner and the Raiders will have a much improved secondary.
At the beginning of the 2010 season, Oakland appeared to have one of the strongest RB corps of any team in the NFL. As it turned out, they would need every bit of depth they had. Darren McFadden, who had been enjoying his best season as a professional, suffered a Lisfranc injury at the beginning of Oakland's Week 7 game against Kansas City and never played again during the year.
Michael Bush filled in admirably as the feature back, rushing for nearly 1000 yards and scoring 8 total touchdowns. However, he doesn't have the top-end speed or elusiveness that McFadden possesses and the running game wasn't quite as effective without both of them involved.
Taiwan Jones showed flashes in the preseason, but suffered an injury during the regular season and never got on track even as a complimentary back to Bush. He finished with only 73 rushing yards on the year. He does have a bright future and should the Raiders part with either Bush or McFadden anytime soon, Jones has the ability to step into a featured role.
it is sobering to think how the season may have been different if McFadden had remained healthy, and even more so to know that such a talented and promising player has such a history of injury. However, McFadden did gain over 600 yards in only six full games of work, and we know that if he ever does put together a full season it will rank up there with the best seasons ever produced by a Raider running back.
Overall, the Raider RBs put together a good year in which they were given a lot of work in a rushing-oriented offense. Defenses knew the Raiders were going to run, but they still could not stop it. However, the injury bug proved too much to overcome for the team.
2011 Grade: B
Two years ago, the Oakland Raiders decided to do a complete overhaul of their linebacking unit. They traded Kirk Morrison and demoted Thomas Howard and brought in an entirely new starting lineup with Rolando McClain, Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves. Then, five weeks into the 2011 season, the Raiders traded for Aaron Curry and immediately put him in the starting lineup over Quentin Groves.
However, despite all of the changes among the linebacker personnel, the unit continued to be one of the weakest parts of the Oakland Raiders defense. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain has struggled to be the dominant force that he was drafted to be. He has not been able to get off blocks and is often seen completely out of position on big plays. His only real bright spot is that he has not been as bad in pass coverage as people thought he might be coming out of college.
After a huge first season in Oakland, Kamerion Wimbley also had a hard time producing in 2011. He was not the same sort of liability that Rolando McClain has turned out to be, but he also does not do much to stand out as an impact player. His performance in 2011 was that of an above average to good player, but was nothing to write home about.
Surprisingly, the best linebacker on the Raiders in 2011 was Aaron Curry. After failing to live up to his high draft status with the Seattle Seahawks, Curry was traded to the Raiders for the dirt cheap price of a seventh round draft pick. In Oakland, Curry was allowed to use his speed and instincts without being hampered down too much by an overly complex defensive scheme.
The thing about the Oakland Raiders linebacking corps is that all three starters appear to have a ton of natural talent, but cannot seem to find a way to live up to that talent. For the two outside linebackers, there appears to be a lot of hope that a new defensive coaching staff could bring about the type of play that was envisioned when these guys were first drafted.
With Rolando McClain, on the other hand, people are starting to question whether or not he has what it takes to be an impactful middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. His continued inability to be a playmaker in the middle combined with his off the field issues point to the fact that this position, which is often considered to be the quarterback of the defense, is simply too big for him. He is an intelligent kid with good size, but perhaps he is better suited a 4-3 scheme where he has help in the middle and not as much is put on his shoulders. While it does not appear that the Raiders will be actively looking for someone to replace McClain, if back up Travis Goethal can stay healthy, I would not be surprised to see him give McClain a run for the starting position.
No matter how it happens, this is a unit that must show improvement in 2012 if the Raiders wish to make it into the playoffs.
Going into the 2010 season, the Raiders felt they had an answer at quarterback for the first time in years. Jason Campbell was finally going to be comfortable with an offense and live up to the hopes the Raiders held when they traded for him. For the first part of the season, he did just that, leading the team to victories over the Broncos, Jets and Texans before being injured and lost for the season against Cleveland.
The Raiders acted quickly, trading for disgruntled Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer. He would struggle in his first game the very next week against Kansas City, but was solid from then on, throwing for over 2700 yards in only ten games with Oakland. He did throw a lot of interceptions, but was never really helped out by his defense and he was constantly trying to make it all happen himself. With Palmer at the helm, Darrius Heyward-Bey finally developed into a serious threat in the passing game and proved to be more than the bust as which he had previously been perceived.
Jason Campbell played well in his limited time as a Raider, but he was never more than an average caretaker quarterback, and those type of guys can only succeed with an elite defense, which Campbell never had. Palmer showed he can succeed regardless, but will make mistakes along the way, although he will hit more often than he will miss. Next year Palmer is without question The Man at quarterback, and hopefully the Raider defense can improve with a year of his experience and stability.
Down the road, Terrelle Pryor may be the guy. He showed good deep accuracy and great mobility in college. He will need to develop a lot as a passer and a reader of defenses, but he is extremely talented and likey well worth the third round supplemental pick spent on him. This year was a very stressful one with mixed results at QB for the Raiders, but the future looks bright.
2011 Grade: C+
One of the strengths of the Oakland Raiders heading into the 2011 season was supposed to be their defensive line. Headed by one of the better defensive linemen to have played the game in Richard Seymour, the young Raiders defensive line was supposed to improve off of a very impressive 2010 season. Unfortunately, those expectations never came to fruition.
The Raiders went from having the 2nd most sacks in 2010 to 15th in the league in 2011. The Raiders defensive line had 14 tackles for a loss in 2011 compared to 24 in 2010. Overall, the defensive line in 2011 appeared to be more of a liability than a strength. Opposing quarterbacks often had all day to pick apart the Raiders secondary, and opposing running backs salivated at the opportunity to play the Raiders.
A big reason the Raiders defensive line struggled this season was due to injuries. Starting defensive end Matt Shaughnessy, who many believed would have a break out season in 2011, missed all but three games due to injury. In addition, Richard Seymour played a large part of the season with an injury as well. While the Raiders had good defensive line depth, the drop off in talent and the inability to keep the linemen fresh with frequent rotations clearly hurt the Raiders.
This was a down year for the Raiders defensive line and it will be interesting to see how they bounce back. Getting healthy, however, will not be the only concern for the Raiders defensive line this off season. With the Raiders head coaching search taking longer than some might have expected, the Raiders lost the opportunity to re-sign Mike Waufle as their defensive line coach as he signed with the St. Louis Rams before Dennis Allen was hired. This could be a big loss for the Raiders as Waufle is considered one of the best defensive line coaches in the NFL.
The Raiders will soon have a whole new coaching staff after multiple defensive collapses resulted in another mediocre season. What players performed well and what can Raider fans look for next season?
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