Jon Gruden’s offseason activity should’ve been the first sign he didn’t love the Raiders roster. He let lots of incumbents walk, and signed veteran free agents in bulk this offseason, and traded for a few more during and after the NFL Draft.
Most of the additions aren’t under contract long, either on prove-it deals or came in to patch a deficient position group in the short term. These deals make it possible to turn the roster over again, though free-agent volume could decrease as Gruden stacks up draft classes.
We’re not giving grades six games into a season, but the bye week provides time to update the status of all these free agent signings. Let’s take a look at how this veteran class as done so far.
S Marcus Gilchrist: The veteran has been just okay playing deep and closer to the line. He’s a functional, if unspectacular addition to the secondary.
CB Leon Hall: He has been a mainstay in the slot, quelling initial questions about whether he would make the 53-man roster. He was excellent early, but has gave up some big plays in Weeks 4 and 5. Could Nick Nelson eat into his playing time?
KR/PR Dwyane Harris: Harris has had some quality returns, including a big one tht helped beat Cleveland. He doesn’t take kickoffs out much, but is a weapon in the return game.
WR Jordy Nelson: Say what you want about his long speed, Nelson is a trusted target in this passing game. He’s averaging 14.7 yards per catch, has three touchdowns and is on pace for 861 yards. Not bad for a 33-year old coming off a poor season.
DE Frostee Rucker: Rucker worked his way into the starting lineup, and is a highly graded run defender who helps in the base defense and has become an important defensive cog.
LB Tahir Whitehead: Whitehead hasn’t wowed enough after securing one of the few longer-term deals in free agency. The three-down linebacker must tackle better.
CB Daryl Worley: He’s a tough cornerback who is going to be a starter on the outside. Gruden has made that clear. Despite losing him to suspension the first-four games, Worley’s signing has been worth it.
S Reggie Nelson: Fans may not have wanted him back, but he has been a secondary fixture. Erik Harris has eaten into some of his snaps, but coaches still like him in the backfield helping line the defense up.
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: DRC started and played most snaps last week. Will this late-signing retain a big role? Time will tell on that front, but he has helped on special teams and in a backup defensive role this year.
DT Clinton McDonald: He came on late, after Justin Ellis hit IR, and has fit right in. Gives the interior defensive line rotation some juice.
CB Rashaan Melvin: Melvin tweeted his frustrations after getting benched in Week 6. Gruden clapped back in a press conference. Will that, or his struggles with techniques he’s being asked to use, hinder his playing prospects? It’s certainly possible.
WR Martavis Bryant: The speed demon was acquired from Pittsburgh for a third-round pick, then cut and re-signed all with a possible suspension looming above him. On the field, Bryant hasn’t been great. He dropped a sure touchdown. He fumbled after a long gain. Generally speaking, Bryant hasn’t been the impact player the Raiders wanted after giving up such a valuable selection for him.
TE Derek Carrier: The former receiver hasn’t contributed much on offense or in the passing game, but is a quality special teams contributor.
LB Emmanuel Lamur: He’s the starting strongside linebacker, but doesn’t play much given the amount of time spent outside the base defense.
RB Doug Martin: Jon Gruden loves Martin and his running style. He still can’t get on the field, with most snaps given to Marshawn Lynch and Jalen Richard. This wasn’t the career renaissance Martin had in mind after signing here, but a bigger role could come if Lynch’s groin injury prevents BeastMode from playing.
FB Keith Smith: Gruden loves fullbacks, but Smith isn’t getting showered with touches early on. The attempts he has had haven’t gone great. He’s a core special teams player and a solid run blocker, as expected.
LB Kyle Wilber: He’s a special teams captain, and a good one.
TE Lee Smith: An excellent run blocker and special teams guy, as always.
DT Johnathan Hankins: In-season signing is part of the interior rotation, and has two fumble recoveries.
WR Brandon LaFell: Was signed relatively late, and is generally inactive on game day.
QB AJ McCarron: Gruden traded for him on Sept. 1, after deciding Manuel and Connor Cook weren’t worthy backups for Derek Carr.
Off the roster/On injured reserve
MLB Derrick Johnson: The 14th-year man signed in May and was a locker-room leader and team captain, but was unable to secure a three-down role and eventually lost snaps in sub packages that were his territory. He was given his release on Tuesday and is no longer with the club.
CB Shareece Wright: He wasn’t ever in the running for a roster spot, buried on the depth chart even during the offseason program. Wright now plays in Houston.
OT Breno Giacomini: Giacomini was signed to be a veteran leader along the front and maybe an early-season starter. A knee injury kept from filling either. He hurt a knee early and never recovered. He was released on Aug. 27, and took $1.3 million for his time in Oakland. Easy money.
QB Josh Johnson: One of Marshawn’s closest people wasn’t on the roster long.
DL Tank Carradine: He spent training camp atop the depth chart at defensive end, and then was rendered inactive most of the year until asking for his release.
WR Griff Whalen: Ended up on IR after a decent preseason, and was given an injury settlement.
QB EJ Manuel: Last year’s backup was cut before the regular season.
DT Ahtyba Rubin: Didn’t make much of an impact before landing on IR Sept. 13.
LS Andrew DePaola: Suffered a torn ACL in the season opener and landed on IR. That’s a bad beat, but he’ll be back.
K Mike Nugent: The veteran did well with the kicking job after Eddy Pineiro got hurt, but ended up on IR shortly after with a hip issue.
QB Christian Hackenberg: Gruden traded a conditional seventh-round pick for a quarterback that was a Raider roughly two weeks.
WR Ryan Switzer: The shifty slot man was acquired right after the NFL draft for Jihad Ward, but didn’t make it through the preseason. He was shipped to Pittsburgh in trade.