Now that Nate Allen’s tenure with the Raiders has come to an end after just one injury-damaged season, general manager Reggie McKenzie has both safety spots to fill.
Allen started alongside Charles Woodson in the 2015 season opener, but Woodson has retired and the Raiders announced Tuesday that Allen had been released after signing a four-year, $23 million contract with Oakland last offseason after playing his first five NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Allen, 28, appeared in just five games with the Raiders after suffering a knee injury in the first regular-season game. His season consisted of just 11 tackles, two passes defensed and one interception.
By releasing Allen Tuesday, the Raiders save a bundle of money. According to several reports, Allen would have been guaranteed $4.9 million for the 2016 season if he had been on the roster Wednesday.
So how will the Raiders fill the safety vacancies this offseason?
One possibility is holdover T.J. Carrie, a young cornerback pressed into service at safety following Allen’s early-season injury. Carrie had some good games and some bad ones, flipping back and forth between corner and safety in 2015, but could be significantly better in 2016 by focusing solely on the safety position over a full offseason and training camp.
Carrie, who will go into his third season with the Raiders, started 14 games in 2015 and had two interceptions, nine deflected passes and was in on 42 tackles. Larry Asante – who is a restricted free agent – started two games for Oakland in 2015 and played in all 16, and also is an option.
With the NFL Combine coming up on February 23, McKenzie and his staff also will be taking a hard look at safeties available in the draft. Several have been rated first- and second-round talents. An assessment by NFL.com analyst (and former NFL scout) Bucky Brooks rates the top five safeties available in the draft as Jeremy Cash of Duke, Vonn Bell of Ohio State, Darien Thompson of Boise State, Karl Joseph of West Virginia and Miles Killebrew of Southern Utah.
The class of unrestricted free-agent safeties also is strong and could include the Chiefs’ Eric Berry, Tashaun Gipson of the Browns, San Diego’s Eric Weddle, George Iloka of the Bengals and Rodney McLeod of the Rams, writes Levi Damien, who covers the Raiders for SB Nation.
The Raiders have a lot of room under the salary cap, so they could bring in a high-priced free agent.