It started early this morning and never let up – a shocking and eventful day that saw the Raiders go through massive roster changes both by addition and subtraction.
There are surprises every season during the day teams cut down to the 53-man roster from their bloated 90 player preseason squad. Fan favorites, long-time veterans, promising rookies, all sometimes don’t make the roster. Fans are accustomed to these roster battles but there were some serious surprises in store for Raider Nation this year. Let’s take a look at some of those transactions.
Rude Wake-Up Call: Khalil Mack’s Early AM Trade to Bears
Trading an All-Pro and recent Defensive Player of the Year doesn’t happen very often, but that’s exactly what the Raiders did today. Shipping defensive end Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears for several draft picks (including two 1st-round selections over the next two years) was what most in Raider Nation woke to this morning. As you can imagine, the reaction was swift and negative.
Yet the decision had to have come down to salary cap space and the team opted out of paying Mack over $23 million a year he was demanding. Heartbreaking doesn’t do justice to fans feelings but its the reality of what happened today in Alameda. The mood is reminiscent of losing star defensive backs Charles Woodson and Nnamdi Asomugha to the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles respectively. As much as this would make up a days worth of bad news, it wasn’t the end of shocking moves for general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Jon Gruden.
Hello, Goodbye: Martavis Bryant Cut Loose
McKenzie and Gruden sent a third-round draft pick in 2018 to the Pittsburg Steelers for wide receiver Martavis Bryant. Bryant is a talented player who has had issues staying available with several suspensions coming under the substance abuse policy. In fact, he missed all of the 2016 season due to suspension.
At the time of the trade, it seemed like another example of the Raiders finding a talented yet troubled player that could flourish in a new environment. Not long into training camp, however, rumors started to swirl of another possible suspension. Those rumors directly contributed to his release on Saturday. Should he avoid a lengthy ban, he could still rejoin the squad though that seems unlikely. What once looked like a steal and a much needed upgrade to the wide receiver corps, now seems like nothing more than a wasted draft pick.
Bring In the New Guy: EJ Manuel and Conner Cook Released, McCarron Acquired
Even though both backup quarterbacks struggled through most of the preseason, it is still a little surprising that both players hit the streets today. Instead of giving the job to Manuel, Gruden sent a fifth-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for backup quarterback AJ McCarron.
The surprise comes more that both Manuel and Cook were shown the door leaving the offense without a quarterback who knows how to run Gruden’s system. Should Carr get injured early, McCarron would most certainly be in trouble. He will need to work overtime as he won’t see many practice snaps now that the regular season is here. The offense may be very limited should McCarron need to be called upon.
Rookie Shock: Marcell Ateman Waived, Chris Warren III to IR:
Every year there are a couple late round or undrafted rookies that gain fan support. This season it was seventh-round wide receiver Marcell Ateman, and undrafted free agent running back Chris Warren III.
Ateman was waived on Saturday but should find his way to the Raiders 10-man practice squad should he go unclaimed. He didn’t flash much during the games but did show off his solid hands and clean route running. He could get consideration for a roster spot for one of the other 31 teams.
Warren III played with every bit of his almost 250-pounds proving he could be a bruising back in the NFL. With fellow running back DeAndre Washington being injured, it looked like there would be an open spot on the final roster. Surprisingly it was Warren III that found himself being placed on IR and Washington claiming the last running back position. He could still make an appearance this season if injury hits the position or any of the veteran players struggle.
It was a long day for the Raiders faithful, full of emotions: anger, disappointment, and uncertainty.
These shocking moves happen every season but the loss of their best player in Mack, as well as the release of Bryant, make today especially painful. There isn’t much time to sulk or whine about what has happened as the Raiders week 1 game is in only nine days. The team will play games this season without some favorite names on the depth chart but they will still be played.
Players are getting ready to move on and Raider Nation needs to as well.