Raider fans across the country have spent nearly the entire offseason trying to defend a good amount of decisions that this Raider team has made.
First it was the purging that happened at seasons end which included the likes of Gibril Wilson, Kalimba Edwards, and Ronald Curry. Then it was the curious draft picks that every analyst on television, radio, website, newspaper, and telegraph has panned. These opinions of course were Darrius Heyward-Bey (ACC Honorable Mention!) being chosen too high, Michael Mitchell (who?) being chosen at all and then the mid and low round picks that weren’t on anyone’s draft boards.
After previous late round picks like FB Oren O’Neal two seasons ago and DE Trevor Scott and WR Chaz Schilens last year, Raider fans have built a rare bit of faith in the decisions this organization has made of late. An optimism that has taken a huge hit with the cuts that were announced Tuesday. All of which have been the hardest to wrap one’s brain around.
The first move that was reported was the release of S Keith Davis. The Raiders just signed him as a free agent from the Cowboys in the offseason. This after chasing him around for two previous seasons while he bounced from the Cowboys to the Dolphins, and back to the Cowboys. Then starting the final nine games of the season ahead of former pro bowl safety Roy Williams. I personally had him as the only free agent safety that I thought the Raiders should sign. Then, of course I was in high praise when I saw the team had gone about signing him.
Now, before the players on this roster can even throw on pads, he is gone. This leaves the Raiders with just four safeties. They consist of a rookie (Michael Mitchell), a second year player who has played in all of two games due to injury (Tyvon Branch), a special teamer (Hiram Eugene), and a guy who lost his starting job to said special teamer and has been shopped more than a Vegas Hooker (Michael Huff). Wouldn’t it behoove the Raiders to stick with Davis at LEAST until the first round of training camp cuts? Branch went down with injury last offseason, he could very well go down again. Mitchell might just take a little time to acclimate to the NFL game. Afterall, he spent all of mini camps and OTA’s either on the sideline with cramps and tightness or not there at all due to NFL rules regarding player college graduation. Have they really seen enough in his limited time that would tell them that he is ready to go? Either Mitchell is really good or the coaching staff is really stupid.
The next move, which was widely reported even before it was officially announced, was the release of sixth round pick DE Stryker Sulak. Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune told everyone not to panic. His point was the Sulak just didn’t perform well enough at a position at which this team was stacked. He was drafted with the intention of competing at the line backer spot as well. The problem is that he was strictly a pass rush specialist at Missouri. And a small one at that. And he was expected to compete at strong side linebacker? This team’s biggest issue has been stopping the run and that is what his main job was supposed to be. But, I reiterate, He was STRICTLY a pass rush specialist at Missouri. And he is SMALL. So my question would be, Why was he even drafted in the first place? He had NO chance of making this team whether he was cut now or later. Cable defended his picks by telling everyone how much research they had done with the picks they made and how much they fit what this team is trying to accomplish. Well, the Sulak pick screams otherwise.
Not that Al Davis or anyone in the Raiders front office cares about criticism but cutting a player before training camp, for any other reason than conduct, removes all benefit of the doubt. As if the nay sayers were not already rabble rousing enough, now they have proof to back it up. And they will have a few more recruits to join the ranks. Not to mention the large number or Raider fans who have never really been sold on this year’s draft picks.
This move only stands to further infuse worry and doubt in the minds of the Raider Nation as to the potential of this year’s class. On top of that, it is a waste of a pick, which as I metioned (O’Neal, Scott, Schilens), even late round picks can be quite valuable and are not to be taken lightly.
Then the final head scratcher was the release of LB Frantz Joseph. He was a fan favorite as an undrafted free agent pick up for the Raiders. Just the fact that he was second in the entire nation in tackles last year was enough. But if you ever met him or heard him talk, he would truly inspire you. His heart and work eithic made you root for him and it was contagious. You would think his approach to the game would be something Tom Cable would want to spread throughout this team. But apparently not having “Raider Speed” was much more important. So important that it was imperitive to remove Joseph from this squad as soon as possible.
Frantz was a priority free agent and was in high demand after the draft despite not being selected. So there is little doubt that he will be picked up rather quickly by one of those teams that were calling for his services. I just hope that the Raiders didn’t hurt his chances of catching on with an NFL club this season with their little failed experiment. He deserves to have a chance to succeed. And I think he will. It is just disappointing that his success will have to be somewhere else.
These questionable moves all came down on Tuesday so it remains to be seen what surprises Al Davis and Tom Cable have in store for us in the coming days. Who else will get fired while they are at home with their family preparing to make a run at an NFL career? Stay tuned.