Jon Gruden is enjoying most every moment of his return to NFL. Saturday may have been an exception.
The Raiders head coach has grown close to players he has guided and developed since returning to the Silver and Black in January, and he was emotional about the prospect of cutting nearly half of his 89-man roster by Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. (PT).
“It’s tough,” Gruden said. “You have been with these guys pretty much every day since they came back starting in April. Some of them have really been on the cusp of making an NFL team. I’ve seen it a lot of times, some guys get close and don’t make it and it’s tough to let them know it wasn’t quite enough. I’m proud of the effort of these guys. We will try and keep the right 53.”
This is the team’s initial 53-man roster, though it will be in some flux leading up to next Monday night’s opener against the Los Angeles Rams.
There were some surprise moves. Keon Hatcher was one of six receivers to make the roster, including Johnny Holton. Ian Silberman joins reserve tackles Brandon Parker and David Sharpe, though he can play any position.
The Raiders have a new backup quarterback, acquired in a trade from Buffalo. AJ McCarron takes the No. 2 spot, while EJ Manuel and Connor Cook were waived/released.
Edge rushers defensive linemen Shilique Calhoun, Fadol Brown and Frostee Rucker made the squad, while 2015 second-round pick Mario Edwards Jr. didn’t make the cut.
Martavis Bryant is also off the roster, for reasons explained below.
Mike Nugent will start as the Raiders kicker and could remain there all year, with rookie Eddy Pineiro placed on injured reserve. Because he is not on the original 53-man roster, he is not eligible to return.
Here’s a full list of players released or put on a reserve list.
WR Marcel Ateman
-- Started camp well, and has a unique receiving skill set able to box defenders out. May be destined for the practice squad.
TE Marcus Baugh
WR Saeed Blacknall
TE Pharaoh Brown
WR Martavis Bryant
-- The Raiders gave up a third-round pick to get someone who never played a game in Silver and Black. ESPN reports there’s a suspension looming for the troubled but talented wideout.
RB James Butler
TE Paul Butler
LB Jason Cabinda
-- Solid middle linebacker, especially in coverage. Could stay with the practice squad if he clears waivers.
CB Jarell Carter
QB Connor Cook
-- The Raiders move on after two-plus seasons in which he failed to secure the backup job.
LB James Cowser
-- A fan favorite, Cowser was behind too many people to make the roster. Special teams play couldn’t keep him on the roster.
CB Antwuan Davis
DE Mario Edwards Jr.
-- The curse of the second-round picks continues. Edwards Jr. is the third former second-round pick cut by Gruden.
DT Connor Flagel
CB Antonio Hamilton
-- Hamilton moves on after two years on the squad.
OL Cameron Hunt
OL Denver Kirkland
S Dallin Leavitt
S Qunicy Mauger
CB Reysean Pringle
OL Jordan Simmons
DL Shakir Soto
LB Azeem Victor
OT Jylan Ware
WR Isaac Whitney
DT Gabe Wright
FB Ryan Yurachek
OL Ody Aboushi
C James Stone
CB Shareece Wright
CB Dexter McDonald (waived/injured)
QB EJ Manuel
-- Manuel finished the preseason strong, but had turnover issues that were hard to overlook.
Injured reserve additions
K Eddy Pineiro
RB Chris Warren III
DT Eddie Vanderdoes