The Raiders are now on a punter hunt, a surprising turn considering Marquette King was locked up long-term.
King was released Friday afternoon with three years left on a contract extension signed in 2016. His loss gave the Raiders $2.9 million in salary cap space and an immediate positional need.
Colby Wadman is the only punter on the Raiders roster, originally signed to help King get through the offseason program. The UC Davis alum has no NFL playing experience, with only rookie minicamp tryouts with the Raiders and Indianapolis Colts last year to his credit.
The free agent well is virtually dry. Brad Wing the only active punter who had a job last year left on the street. He was analytics site Pro Football Focus’ lowest-rated punter a year ago.
There are more options in the NFL Draft, some with vast potential. The Raiders have a glut of later-round selections, including two in the fifth round and four more in the sixth.
The Raiders could certainly find some quality with those picks, and pay far less for a punter than King might’ve cost. The Raiders are right up against the NFL salary cap, and needed to create space for their roster overhaul. They also must budget for paying their draft class, meaning a few more veterans might get cut in coming weeks.
Texas’ Michael Dickson is NFL.com’s highest-rated punter in the draft – he also won 2017’s Ray Guy award -- and the site suggests he could be had in the fourth round. That seems a smidge high, though Alabama’s JK Scott is well reviewed, with a fifth-round departure expected. Bowling Green’s Joseph Davidson and Florida’s Johnny Townsend are rated high.
The Raiders signed King as an undrafted free agent, seeing great potential and Shane Lechler’s heir apparent.
The Raiders didn’t blindly make this move, and clearly have someone in mind to take King’s spot.
Raiders specialists will have a new look this year, with Andrew DePaola replacing long-time long snapper Jon Condo. Giorgio Tavecchio also retained Sebastian Janikowski’s job as Raiders kicker, one just before 2017 and held all year.