Raiders

Report: Raiders to part ways with Sebastian Janikowski after 18 years

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AP

Report: Raiders to part ways with Sebastian Janikowski after 18 years

Raiders owner Al Davis made an odd move drafting Sebastian Janikowski No. 17 overall in the 2000 NFL Draft. Kickers aren’t taken that high by unwritten rule. Davis, as we all know, didn’t care for conventional mores.

He took the player he wanted, when he wanted him. The result, worked out pretty well. Janikowski kicked 17 straight seasons for the Silver and Black, and was recognized as one of his generation’s best. His power and accuracy from distance was top flight, as was his consistency from shorter range.

Those traits earned stability and three contract extensions during his Raiders tenure -- the last made him the NFL's highest-paid kicker -- which has reportedly come to an end. ESPN stated Thursday the Raiders have informed Janikowski he’s no longer in their plans.

That's news, but zero surprise. The end of a long era seemed obvious after Janikowski was asked to take a pay cut and placed on injured reserve shortly after with a disc issue in his back. Replacement Giorgio Tavecchio fared well in Janikowski’s stead and the Raiders never looked back.

Tavecchio made $4 million less for roughly equal production, and is an exclusive rights free agent heading into this offseason. That means he isn’t due much of a raise. The Raiders will surely import competition this offseason.

Janikowski must find employment elsewhere to continue an illustrious career. He spoke last season about playing a few more seasons, possibly becoming a Las Vegas Raider, before suffering a back injury.

Last year’s head coach Jack Del Rio said in late November, when it became clear Janikowski would remain on IR all season, that the kicker was still mending.

Janikowski’s current plans for the future are unknown. Allowing Janikowski to walk away, as expected as it may be, will be a shock to Raider Nation’s system.

He spent 18 years with one team, and was the only active tie to the early 2000s glory days. Jon Gruden was head coach when Janikowski was first drafted, and was at the helm when he was informed of the club’s new direction.

Janikowski leaves as the Raiders leading’ all-time scorer with 1,574 points, and led his team in scoring in 15 seasons. He also has the highest field goal percentage (80.2) in Raiders history. He tied a then NFL record in 2011 with a 63-yard field goal.

Jon Gruden: 'We love stealing from the Chiefs'

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AP

Jon Gruden: 'We love stealing from the Chiefs'

Jon Gruden is back to coaching the Raiders this season -- the beginning of a 10-year contract -- for the first time since 2001. And he's already ramping up the Raiders' rivalry with the Chiefs. 

"Last time I was here at Oakland we stole Rich Gannon from Kansas City, we took Andre Rison from the Chiefs, we took Albert Lewis from the Chiefs," Gruden said Wednesday night to season-ticket holders. "We love stealing from the Chiefs. So now we got Derrick Johnson and I'm on my way to the Raiders store to pick up a Derrick Johnson Raiders jersey. I'm gonna wear it home tonight."

The Raiders signed the 35-year-old Johnson this offseason after the Chiefs released him. Johnson is a former All-Pro linebacker, has been named to four Pro Bowl teams and has spent 13-year career with the Chiefs as the franchise's all-time leading tackler. 

"We feel like we have solidified the middle of our defense big time," Gruden said to the season-ticket holders. "We added Derrick Johnson, the all-time leading tackler in Kansas City Chiefs history. He started every game for them last year. They were the division champions."

With Gruden back in Oakland, the AFC West should certainly be entertaining this season. 

Raiders give Conley green light, Melifonwu 'doesn't look close at all'

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USATSI

Raiders give Conley green light, Melifonwu 'doesn't look close at all'

The Raiders have been cautious with Gareon Conley’s return from shin surgery. The cornerback’s clearance turned from red to yellow earlier in the offseason program, but finally went green in time to start the OTAs.

Last year’s first-round pick was reportedly a first-team cover man during the Raiders first OTA session on Tuesday. It was one of three open to the media.

The Raiders plan for him to be there throughout the regular season, and believe he has the makings of a No. 1 cornerback.

Head coach Jon Gruden has been excited to see the Ohio State product in action, as part of cornerback corps also featuring Rashaan Melvin and Daryl Worley.

“Yeah, it’s great to see Conley out there,” Gruden said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “We’re counting on him. We need him. But to see Rashaan Melvin and Conley and [Daryl] Worley competing is really exciting.

Conley was impressive during his first offseason program, until he hurt his shin during the team’s June 2017 minicamp. Conley barely played after that, with two games action and a handful of limited practices. He had surgery to repair his shin in Nov. 2017, and was eased back into action somewhat.

Conley doesn’t have an injury history save last year’s mishap, and could have a real impact if he remains healthy and continues to progress.

“Conley is special,” Gruden said. “He’s a top pick in this draft for a reason. I think from a confidence standpoint, he needs to get some work in out here.”

The player Oakland selected after Conley last year still hasn’t been cleared to work. Safety Obi Melifonwu wasn’t able to participate in Tuesday’s team drills, the first time this offseason offense and defense can play against each other.

The UConn product missed last season’s first half recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, and then needed hip surgery after the season. He still isn’t ready for a return.

“It doesn’t look close at all,” Gruden said. “I’ll leave it at that. He doesn’t look close, to me, at all.”

Physical issues are problematic for a player looking to earn a role on the team. The team is stocked at safety, with Karl Joseph, Reggie Nelson and Marcus Gilchrist leading the way.

“He doesn’t look ready to roll yet,” Gruden said. “So, I don’t let anybody practice without being able to go physically. He doesn’t look like he’s 100 percent. I haven’t seen much of Obi except in the training room.”

NOTES

-- Khalil Mack was not present for the start of voluntary OTAs, as expected. The elite edge rusher has missed the entire offseason program to this point, withholding services while waiting for a big-money contract extension the the Raiders have budgeted to give him. 

-- Gruden said receiver Amari Cooper is dealing with a hamstring injury.

-- Left tackle Donald Penn is working his way back from foot surgery, and participated in individual drills on Tuesday. He was held back during team sessions, leaving David Sharpe to take first-team reps at left tackle. Breno Giacomini manned the first-team right tackle spot.

-- Rookies Kolton Miller (left tackle) and Brandon Parker (right tackle) worked with reserve units at this stage. Gruden was impressed with how both players absorbed the offense.

-- Fourth-round cornerback Nick Nelson remains out recovering from meniscus surgery. As previously reported, he’s expected back for training camp.

-- The Raiders are planning to have training camp practices against another team, but Gruden didn’t want to reveal the opponent until arrangements are finalized.