The Oakland Raiders made 37 roster moves Saturday, trimming their roster to the NFL-mandated 53 players. Here’s a closer look at the final cuts:
Most significant move: Gutting the linebacker corps by parting ways with Shilique Calhoun, Ben Heeney and LaTroy Lewis. Plus, they placed Jelani Jenkins on season-ending injured reserve. Not only was Jenkins the Raiders’ lone defensive free-agent signing this offseason, he was also expected to start at weakside linebacker in Oakland’s 4-3 base defense. But Jenkins was slowed in the offseason program by a niggling knee issue. Calhoun, meanwhile, was a third-round draft pick last year but often disappeared in games, while UDFA Lewis was an exhibition star with three sacks and a fumble return for a TD against other third- and fourth-stringers. Heeney, who opened last season as the starting middle linebacker but lost his job after two games and then suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Game 4, never got off the non-football injury list. Linebacker is an obvious weakness in Oakland, so moving on from these guys deepens and widens that need. Expect the Raiders to hit the linebacker market hard on waivers and perhaps even renew acquaintances with Perry Riley Jr.
A feel-good story: For a day at least. Division III linebacker Nicholas Morrow, an undrafted rookie from Greenville College, stuck to the Raiders’ initial 53-man roster. And at a position of great need, as noted above. Morrow might be expendable when the Raiders hit the waiver wire or sign a linebacker off the street to solidify the middle of their defense, but for now it's a great story. The 6-foot, 216-pounder, who was a defensive back in college and an offensive lineman until his senior year of high school, is not especially big for the position, but he is fast and showed in the preseason that the game is not too big for him.
Stay tuned: Sure, the Raiders carried 10 offensive linemen with Denver Kirkland, and 11 defensive backs with Keith McGill, but both are dealing with injuries. So in order for Oakland to place either or both of them on IR and bring them back later this season, they had to be on the initial 53-man roster. Moves are expected at linebacker -- the Raiders are only carrying six at the moment in Morrow, James Cowser, Bruce Irvin, Marquel Lee, Cory James and Tyrell Adams -- so those roster spots could be flipped with a signing or two.
Waived (33): OL Kareem Are, RB George Atkinson III, CB Breon Borders, DT Paul Boyette, WR K.J. Brent, OT Chauncey Briggs, DE Fadol Brown, TE Pharaoh Brown, LB Shilique Calhoun, S Anthony Cioffi, RB John Crockett, CB Kenneth Durden, LS Andrew East, LB/DE IK Enemkpali, LB Najee Harris, WR Keon Hatcher, TE Gabe Holmes, RB Elijah Hood, CB Chris Humes, DL Branden Jackson, S Rickey Jefferson, LB/DE Rufus Johnson, LB LaTroy Lewis, S Marcus McWilson, TE Ryan O’Malley, G Oni Omoile, LB Brady Sheldon, OL Ian Silberman, G Jordan Simmons, K Giorgio Tavecchio, WR Isaac Whitney, LB Xavier Woodson-Luster, WR Ishmael Zamora.
Released (1): TE Cooper Helfet
Waived/injured (1): WR Jaydon Mickens
Waived/non-football injury (1): LB Ben Heeney
Injured reserve: (1): LB Jelani Jenkins