New Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie has pushed over the first domino, but it obviously won’t be his last.
Expect the team’s new boss to create a whole pile of tipped-over dominoes in what should be a very busy offseason of blowing up and rebuilding this team.
McKenzie’s release of highly paid cornerback Stanford Routt – one of the most high-profile players on the defensive unit – is a clear sign that McKenzie means business in re-shaping both the salary structure and makeup of the roster.
A year ago, Routt, 28, signed a three-year $31.5 million deal, with $20 million guaranteed, to stay with the Raiders. The deal was later re-structured to five years and more than $50 million. With the departure of star corner Nnamdi Asomugha to free agency, Routt was deemed ready to become the team’s shut-down corner in 2011.
What the Raiders got in return for their investment, however, was a mixed bag of good and bad.
While Routt, according to STATS LLC, held opposing receivers to a low-completion percentage of 47.4 percent and less than 6 yards per attempt when he was thrown at in 2011, he also gave up eight touchdown passes and led the NFL with 17 penalties committed. Many of those penalties were extremely costly pass-interference infractions that led to opponents’ scores.
According to Bill Williamson of ESPN, McKenzie’s action in releasing Routt is a signal the new GM is looking very carefully at salaries on his roster, and weighing costs-benefits to determine where he can clear out salary space while making room for roster improvements.
When McKenzie spoke to the media upon being hired, he said some contracts were “out of whack.”
Williamson notes several other players on the roster with big contracts who might be vulnerable include defensive lineman Richard Seymour, linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, safety Michael Huff, defensive tackle John Henderson, linebacker Aaron Curry and guard Cooper Carlisle.
With Routt now off the roster – he’s already reportedly set up a visit with the Buffalo Bills – McKenzie will need to either develop young corners DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa, or dip into the free-agent class that could include such big names as Cortland Finnegan (Titans), Tracy Porter (Saints), Brandon Carr (Chiefs) and Brent Grimes (Falcons), Williamson reports.
As McKenzie looks at his roster, he’ll also need to set aside money for at least a couple of impact free-agents he may want to keep – running back Michael Bush and safety Tyvon Branch.
Routt, who just completed his seventh year with the Raiders after playing in college at Houston, intercepted 10 passes, returning one for a TD, in his time in Oakland.