Raiders' Roster Purge Continues

Release of key veterans, failure to sign own free agents leaves some Oakland fans resigned to enduring yet another season of rebuilding and pain

Gone are wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and safety Michael Huff.

Also no longer in silver and black are defensive lineman Dave Tollefson, outside linebacker Philip Wheeler and defensive lineman Desmont Bryant. Gone, gone, gone.

As the first day of the NFL’s free agency and trading season began Tuesday, the Oakland Raiders’ talent purge was a surge.

As one unhappy Raiders fan tweeted to ESPN Insider Adam Schefter late Tuesday, “Any Raiders news? It’s all bad today. … Yes, they could be favorite for No. 1 pick in 2014. First tear down, then build up.”

Wrote another fan on the Bay Area News Group website: “Burn it down. … It’s not like the Raiders were winning with those guys anyway.”

There’s the bottom line. With those players in 2012, the Raiders were 4-12. And not only that, the team was a reported $8.5 million over the 2013 salary cap entering Tuesday, which is why a pair of former No. 1 picks, Heyward-Bey and Huff, plus Tollefson, were released, clearing $8.75 million in cap room, reported Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group.

Corkran reports that with the Raiders failing to offer any of their key free agents a contract, and by their roster cutting, the team now has about $16 million in cap room for the coming season – yet still will be paying $32 million in “dead money,” financial obligations to players no longer on the roster.

Other players still likely to depart include offensive linemen Khalif Barnes and Cooper Carlisle, tight end Brandon Myers, punter Shane Lechler, defensive linemen Richard Seymour and Matt Shaughnessy and cornerback Shawntae Spencer.

Linebacker Rolando McClain, too, will either be released or traded.

So, indeed, the Raiders for the second straight season are tearing apart the roster, ridding themselves of both talent and high salaries and doing it all according to the plan – so we’re led to believe – of general manager Reggie McKenzie.

The GM declined to re-sign any of the team’s 17 unrestricted free agents. And cutting Huff, a fine player who also willingly moved to cornerback in 2012 to fill a team need, was a surprise. Yet Huff was due $4 million in salary and $4 million in a roster bonus this season, and declined to take a pay cut, reported Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle.

This team is in serious rebuilding mode, and all of McKenzie’s talk when he took the job about looking at the long term, and asking for patience is now loud and clear. The Raiders may sign some lower-level free agents this offseason to plug some holes, but McKenzie’s building program will be accomplished through the draft and a strategy of fiscal responsibility.

A quick turnaround and being competitive in the AFC West in 2013 now appears to be out of reach.

By cutting two former No. 1 picks in DHB and Huff, McKenzie stayed his course.

Wrote Yahoo’s Steven Slivka: “(McKenzie) asserted his dominance to the entire organization and showed that this is his team. Simply put: nobody in Oakland is safe. McKenzie knew the financial mess he was forced to work with before he got the job 14 months ago. Now he’s doing his best to salvage it.”

McKenzie still has much work to be done, getting quarterback Carson Palmer to restructure his deal – or possibly release him, if that can’t be done.

The roster roulette is far from over.

“Long gone are the days of overpaid and unproven players roaming the field in Oakland,” wrote Slivka. “That’s the message that McKenzie is trying to send. And he’s doing a pretty good job of it.”

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