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Gutierrez: Raiders under cap; who will they target?

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Gutierrez: Raiders under cap; who will they target?

Aug. 17, 2011GUTIERREZ ARCHIVE
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Paul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.comRapture preacher Harold Camping had next-to-nothing on the Raiders salary cap doomsday prophets two weeks ago. Oakland was anywhere from 10 million to 17 million over the cap a day before the Aug. 5 deadline to get its payroll to 120 million.A restructure here -- think Richard Seymour -- a restructure there -- hey, there's Stanford Routt -- and a long-term deal to wipe out an 11-million franchise tag -- paging Kamerion Wimbley -- and, voila!According to numerous reports, the Raiders on Tuesday had 5.1 million in cap space.
Fuzzy math? Or just the Raiders doing what they do best in keeping players they want to keep? I'm going to go with a little of both.So with some money burning a hole in Al Davis' pocket, and with some definite needs on the roster -- especially in the secondary, at weak-side linebacker and on the offensive line -- what should Davis do? Should he dangle some of this coin in the direction of free agents who are just as established as they are currently unemployed? And if so, who should be his targets? The feeling here, though, is that Davis likes his starters and would be hesitant to bring in a guy to compete for the job. Rather, he might continue to bring in second-tier guys, as he's done since camp began.I put up a poll on my Facebook page and those that voted were in favor of securing the services of safety Darren Sharper. A look, then, at those free agents you voted for, and a pro and con for each when it comes to the Raiders' potential interest.Safety Darren Sharper (31.8 percent)Pro: A five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro with a Super Bowl ring, he brings a wealth of experience with him. Besides being known for his soft hands -- he led the NFL with nine interceptions in 2009 -- Sharper is also one of the most feared hitters in the game.Con: Sharper is 35 years old, a dinosaur in today's NFL. And he is a free safety by trade. The Raiders just paid a boatload of cash to starting free safety Michael Huff.Linebacker Kirk Morrison (15.2 percent)Pro: He's from Oakland and spent the first five years of his career with the Raiders before being traded to Jacksonville in 2010 so a homecoming, of sorts, would no doubt re-energize him.Con: Where would he fit? He's been a starting middle linebacker most of his career so would he be able to stomach being a back-up to Rolando McClain? Or could he make the adjustment to the weakside?Linebacker Lofa Tatupu (14.4 percent)Pro: An absolute warrior, even if he's a tad undersized for a middle linebacker, Tatupu is also the consummate professional and a team leader others gravitate toward.Con: Similar to Morrison, Tatupu is a middle linebacker by trade, so how would this work? Undersized at MIKE, that might hurt him at WILL, right? And his coverage skills in the flat are suspect.Right tackle Jon Stinchcomb (12.9 percent)Pro: He was a Pro Bowler for the Super Bowl XLIV champs from New Orleans and would presumably be an immediate upgrade over either Khalif Barnes or rookie Joe Barksdale. Plus, he knows of Oakland, what with older brother Matt a former Raider lineman.Con: He's somewhat damaged goods, coming off a season-ending left quadriceps tear last season. And the ninth-year vet has a lot of mileage on him having started 80 straight games at one point and also enduring a ruptured right patella tendon in 2005.Receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (9.9 percent)Pro: He's already worked with Raiders coach Hue Jackson, who referred to him as his "son" from their time together in Cincinnati. And Houshmandzadeh had a career-year in 2007, catching 112 passes for 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns.Con: Houshmandzadeh seems to excel when he's a No. 2 receiver, as he was with the Bengals behind Chad Ochocinco. So expectations of his stepping in and being No. 1 might weigh him down.Cornerback Kelvin Hayden (9.9 percent)Pro: A wily six-year vet with the experience of not only winning a Super Bowl with Indianapolis, Hayden also returned an interception for a touchdown in the Colts' defeat of Chicago that day. He'd bring experience to a young cornerback group.Con: Hayden is a pure zone-defense corner. The Raiders play almost exclusively man-defense. Think DeAngelo Hall. Next.Receiver Terrell Owens (6.1 percent)Pro: Desperate, needy and always willing to go across the middle for a pass, Terrell has something to prove.Con: Despite his numerous football talents, T.O.'s ego is even bigger and would be a threat to rock the Raiders' young and impressionable receiving corps' good vibe.

Snap count: Raiders' Melifonwu experiment at cornerback backfires

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USATSI

Snap count: Raiders' Melifonwu experiment at cornerback backfires

The Raiders are razor thin at cornerback, without many bodies or talent they can trust. They were down to three healthy career cornerbacks heading into Sunday’s game against New England, with TJ Carrie, Sean Smith and Dexter McDonald available.

Head coach Jack Del Rio added a new name to the mix. He started second-round safety Obi Melifonwu at cornerback against the high-flying Patriots, an experiment that didn’t work out well.

Melifonwu played 26 snaps at cornerback, where he had been working some in practice since becoming eligible to return off injured reserve. He spent the early season on IR after having arthroscopic knee surgery.

Melifonwu was put in a tough spot, and struggled as a result. He allowed two receptions for 69 yards on four targets, including a 64-yard touchdown to Brandin Cooks where he had his eyes in the backfield when the Patriots speedster blew right by.

This position switch came in Melifonwu’s second NFL game, with just seven defensive snaps under his belt. 

Head coach Jack Del Rio admitted it was a move made out of desperation.

“Yeah, a little bit,” Del Rio said after Sunday’s 33-8 loss to New England at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. “We need more production (at cornerback). We're willing to try just about anything and we talked about being lean there and needing more production from that spot.

“(Melifonwu’s) a talented kid and it was probably asking a little too much, but we are going to roll those guys, we rolled our guys in the secondary tonight, and we're going to do that. We have got to do that until somebody starts playing well enough to stay in there full-time.”

The Raiders are in a bind at cornerback with Gareon Conley on injured reserve and David Amerson out three straight games with a foot injury. Demetrius McCray and Antonio Hamilton are also on season-ending injured reserve.

Carrie was a mainstay on Sunday, playing all 60 defensive snaps. Smith took over early, when the Melifonwu experiment wasn’t working out. He played 43 snaps, allowing three catches for 34 yards on five targets. McDonald played just eight snaps.

The Raiders are hoping someone can improve and settle into a full-time spot. The secondary has been thin for some time, but the personnel department has declined to sign anyone new off the street for depth.

That means Del Rio’s staff is still searching for answers at that position from a small pool.

“We're not playing really well on the back end and we have to find a way,” Del Rio said. “And we're going to make it competitive and let guys challenge for it and challenge for time and the guys that play the best are going to play the most.”

OFFENSE
Quarterback – Derek Carr 74
Running back – DeAndre Washington 24, Marshawn Lynch 21, Jamize Olawale 14, Jalen Richard 11,
Wide receiver – Amari Cooper 67, Seth Roberts 59, Michael Crabtree 58, Cordarelle Patterson 25, Johnny Holton 13
Tight end – Jared Cook 54, Clive Walford 14, Lee Smith 10
Offensive line – Kelechi Osemele 74, Rodney Hudson 74, Donald Penn 74, Gabe Jackson 74, Vadal Alexander 74

DEFENSE
Defensive line –
Khalil Mack 53, Mario Edwards 44, Justin Ellis 38, Eddie Vanderdoes 34, Denico Autry 31, Treyvon Hester 24, James Cowser 14
Linebacker – NaVorro Bowman 51, Bruce Irvin 46, Cory James 44, Nicholas Morrow 15, Marquel Lee 9
Cornerback – TJ Carrie 60, Sean Smith 43, Obi Melifonwu 26, Dexter McDonald 8
Safety – Reggie Nelson 60, Karl Joseph 51, Shalom Luani 9

SPECIAL TEAMS
Nicholas Morrow 18, James Cowser 18, Marquel Lee 15, Erik Harris 15, Xavier Woodson-Luster 15, Keith McGill 15, Jamize Olawale 15, Cordarrelle Patterson 13, Dexter McDonald 12, DeAndre Washington 11, Jalen Richard 9, Shalom Luani 9, Lee Smith 7, Khalil Mack 7, Mario Edwards 7, Eddie Vanderdoes 7, Denico Autry 7, Treyvon Hester 7, Jon Feliciano 7, Johnny Holton 6, TJ Carrie 6, Jon Condo 4, Marquette King 4, Karl Joseph 2, Cory James 2, Obi Melifonwu 2, Giorgio Tavecchio 2

DID NOT PLAY
QB EJ Manuel, OT David Sharpe

INACTIVE
QB Connor Cook, OT Jylan Ware, DL Jihad Ward, CB David Amerson, LB Shilique Calhoun, RT Marshall Newhouse, DT Darius Latham

Raiders first-round pick Gareon Conley having surgery

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USATSI

Raiders first-round pick Gareon Conley having surgery

Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley will have surgery to repair his injured shin on Monday, a week after he was placed on season-ending injured reserve.

This year’s No. 24 overall pick announced that news in an Instagram post, accompanied by a picture of his young son.

Surgery was always a likely outcome after heading to IR, though the team never formally stated that would occur.

The Raiders believe Conley will return completely healthy for the 2018 campaign, and have high hopes for him as a lock down cover man.

They could certainly use him this season. He was expected to contribute heavily as a rookie, but a shin injury suffered in a June minicamp prevented that from happening. He missed training camp and the entire preseason slate, but eventually made his NFL debut in Week 2. He suffered a setback in a Week 3 game at Washington, and was shut down indefinitely on Oct. 6.

Conley was re-evaluated early last week, and the Raiders didn’t see enough progress to keep him on the 2017 roster.

The Raiders are lacking at cornerback with Conley down and David Amerson dealing with a foot injury.

Head coach Jack Del Rio will speak to the media Monday afternoon, and provide an update on Conley’s procedure.