When tight end Zach Miller left the Raiders as a free agent last summer, Oakland acted swiftly to replace him with former Giant Kevin Boss.
The move was heralded as a solid move to make the best of a bad situation. Boss, after all, was a four-year veteran who played well for New York and had proven himself as a solid blocker and receiver. At 6-foot-6 and with good hands, Boss had averaged more than five touchdown catches the previous three seasons with the Giants.
In his first season as a Raider, however, he was slowed by injuries and had just 28 catches and three TDs and seemed an afterthought in coach Hue Jackson’s offense.
On Tuesday the Raiders cut their ties with Boss, clearing some salary cap room but leaving a big hole at the tight end position.
Paul Gutierrez of CSNBayArea.com reported the release of Boss – who was to receive a $2 million bonus this week and a base salary of $2 million for 2012 -- gives the Raiders about $2.5 million in salary cap relief. He had signed a four-year, $16 million deal to join the Raiders last year.
The release of Boss is just the latest move in a thorough re-making of the Raiders roster this offseason, as new GM Reggie McKenzie dumps salary and prepares to build a team more in line with his philosophy. Starting corners Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson and safety Hiram Eugene also have been cut, and linebacker Aaron Curry, quarterback Carson Palmer, defensive tackle Richard Seymour and safety Michael Huff all have agreed to have their contracts restructured. Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley may be the next player on the chopping block. Running back Michael Bush, an unrestricted free agent, also appears unlikely to return.
So who will replace Boss at tight end?
It’s likely his replacement will come from a trio of recent draft picks. Brandon Myers, selected in 2009, caught 16 passes for 154 yards last season. Also on the roster are tight ends David Ausberry and Richard Gordon, both drafted in 2011. Ausberry, 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds and a seventh-round pick from USC, mostly played on special teams. He had just two catches in 12 games. The former wide receiver – converted to tight end with the Trojans – had 64 catches and seven TDs in college.
Gordon, a sixth-round pick from Miami, is 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds and had just one catch his rookie season.
Myers, a sixth-round choice from Iowa, has the inside track. He’s started 12 games in his three seasons with 32 total catches for 250 yards.
With little room to maneuver under the salary cap and only two draft choices, the Raiders have holes to fill at tight end, cornerback and safety, among others.
As longtime Bay Area columnist Tim Kawakami noted, it’s a new era for the Raiders – one of fiscal responsibility and long-range planning.
“It might be harrowing this season, given the roster and salary overages that general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen inherited,” wrote Kawakami in his Wednesday column. He notes fans “are already bellowing” about players cut this offseason.
“The money isn’t there,” says Kawakami. “The time for crazy, damn-the-future spending is over.”