Raiders place TE Smith on IR, sign TE off practice squad

Raiders place TE Smith on IR, sign TE off practice squad

ALAMEDA – The Raiders initially hoped against hope that tight end Lee Smith could return this season. Turned out that was a pipe dream.

Smith was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday afternoon. Fellow tight end Ryan O’Malley was promoted from the practice squad in a corresponding move.

Smith needed surgery on a fractured bone in his lower leg, an injury sustained during Sunday’s win at Baltimore. Smith caught a pass in the flat, and Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith hit him low and the big tight end fell awkwardly to the turf.

He need help getting off the field, was carted from the sideline and left for Oakland on crutches.

Head coach Jack Del Rio feared Smith was done for the season, but said Monday he wanted results from procedures done before making that call.

Smith was primarily a blocking tight end, someone who helped immensely in the running game and at times in pass protection. He was also a team leader, especially on offense.

“(We’ll miss him) not just because of the kind of player he is, but the type of person he is,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “Everybody in the locker room loves Lee and, if you’re going to walk down a dark alley, he’s one of the top three people you’re taking. He’ll fight for every single person on this team and will do anything he can to make sure you’re okay.”

The Raiders will replace Smith with a few different people, but O’Malley should take the bulk of his blocking work. O’Malley is able bodied, standing 6-foot-6 and 258 pounds. The undrafted rookie played at Penn, where he was also a productive receiver.

O’Malley was signed to the practice squad after being part of the team’s final cuts.

In other transactions, the Raiders signed linebackers Tyrell Adams and Darnell Sankey to the practice squad.

Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster


Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster

The Raiders have a lot of quarterbacks under contract, certainly more than they’ll have come September.

That means the battle to be Derek Carr’s backup should be fierce. EJ Manuel had that title last year, with a shot to retain it after re-signing with the club on Thursday afternoon.

Veteran Josh Johnson signed up Monday, and those two will join third-year man Connor Cook behind Carr on the depth chart.

New head coach Jon Gruden loved Cook coming out of the draft, but the Michigan State alum failed to earn the backup job last season and must make a move up the depth chart to kickstart his career.

Manuel has a strong arm and starting experience, making him a steady and solid backup option. He completed 24-of-43 passes for 265 yards, a touchdown and an interception in two games when Carr was hurt.

Johnson might be a camp arm at this point, though he’ll be given a chance to compete this spring and summer.

Carr has been hurt for at least a small stretch in each of the last two seasons. Having Manuel in that spot might offer stability.

Gruden addressed last year’s backup quarterbacks last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Gruden on Manuel: “I think EJ is a young, talented guy,” Gruden said. “He’s been in the facility working out on his own every day. There is a bright upside to him, too, as a young quarterback to keep working with. He’s a free agent, but the Philadelphia Eagles proved that’s a pretty damn important position, isn’t it? Right? So we have to address that and see where we are.”

Gruden on Cook: “I am kind of surprised Connor hasn’t played in two years, other than the playoff game he got in as a rookie. After Derek got hurt last year, they turned the ball to EJ. I don’t know where Connor Cook is. I am frustrated right now that I can’t spend any time with him, but, April 9th (when the Raiders offeseason program starts) will be an exciting day for me and Connor Cook.”

Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini


Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini

The Raiders need help at right tackle, the lone vacancy along their offensive line. They signed a veteran presence on Thursday afternoon, adding 32-year old Breno Giacomini as the frontrunner to join the starting five.

He has 86 starts in 94 career games, and has been a full-time starter three of the last four years. Giacomini spent 2017 in Houston and the previous three seasons with the New York Jets.

He was a Seattle Seahawk before that, working with Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable for three of his four years there. Cable gave Giacomini his first chance to start in the second half of 2011, and held the post through 2012.

The bond between the two is clearly strong, considering what Giacomini tweeted shortly after Cable got fired in Seattle.

Coach and player will reunite, hoping to provide steadiness on the right side of the Raiders offensive line.

He’ll compete for a starting spot with Vadal Alexander, second-year pros David Sharpe and Jylan Ware and possibly a drafted player. Giacomini should be considered the favorite unless the Raiders use an early pick on an offensive lineman.

Giacomini has plenty of starts, but his Pro Football Focus numbers aren’t pretty. The analytics says he allowed nine sacks, eight quarterback hits and 64 pressures with Houston last year. He had some decent years under Cable, and a return to that form might push him into the starting lineup for good. Time will tell on that front.