In 2015, David Amerson was a revelation for the Raiders. The cornerback had arguably the best season of his NFL career after being acquired off waivers from Washington in September.
In 14 games he had a terrific 26 passes defensed, four interceptions, a forced fumble and was in on 59 tackles. The former second-round pick of Washington out of North Carolina State — who’d lost his job — showed why he’d been so touted in college.
The analytic website Pro Football Focus selected Amerson as its Most Improved Player, and Oakland rewarded him with a four-year deal that could pay him as much as $38 million.
But, that 2015 season was his high point with the Raiders.
After two more up-and-down seasons, the Raiders announced Monday they released Amerson, who played in just six games in 2017 because of injuries.
His release comes two days before his pay for 2018 would have been fully guaranteed (about $6 million) and saves the team about $21 million in salary-cap space over the next three seasons, according to Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com.
The release also reinforces the team’s need for an upgrade at the cornerback position going into free agency and the draft.
The Raiders’ top pick in the 2017 draft, Gareon Conley, will go into this offseason healthy and with a chance to earn a starting spot, and the Raiders also have starter TJ Carrie, Sean Smith, who came on strong over the second half of the season, and Dexter McDonald in the mix. But many draft analysts project the team will take a cornerback high in this spring’s draft to bolster the position.
In 2017, Amerson was knocked out of the lineup after six games because of a foot injury, but even when he was on the field, his play was poor. Pro Football Focus reported he allowed a 156.3 passer rating on throws to receivers he was guarding, ranking last in the NFL among 159 cornerbacks with at least 40 coverage snaps.
Amerson will likely get a shot with another team. He’s still only 26 and has shown he can play at a high level. But he didn’t come close to his 2015 level of play in 2016 and 2017.
When Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com asked Amerson in late December if he thought he’d be back with the team in 2018, he couldn’t guarantee it.
“I don’t know, man,” Amerson told Gutierrez. “You never know with this league. You never know. It’s all about, what have you done for me lately?”