AFC West: Rolando McClain

Camp preview: Oakland Raiders

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
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NFL Nation's Paul Gutierrez examines the three biggest issues facing the Oakland Raiders heading into training camp.

Matt Schaub: Dennis Allen told anyone who would listen this offseason that Schaub, a two-time Pro Bowler who once passed for 4,770 yards but is coming off a nightmarish final season in Houston, is a top-10 quarterback. And even if a project by ESPN.com found that NFL insiders ranked Schaub 25th in the 32-team NFL, that will not dissuade Allen. Far from it. Schaub is his guy. Still, the question of Schaub's confidence after he threw 14 interceptions (with four pick-sixes in four straight games) and lost his job with the Texans will continue to hound Schaub and the Raiders until he proves it is not an issue. To his credit, Schaub, who looked impressive in the offseason non-padded practices open to the media, insists it's in the past. Besides, a change of scenery might do wonders for him. It's not like the Raiders are putting everything on the 10-year veteran; a running attack spearheaded by Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew should get the play-action passing game going … unless Schaub is shot. Which brings us to the intriguing figure that is Derek Carr, Oakland's second-round draft pick who was elevated to second string in minicamp. But Allen appears ready to ride or die with Schaub, for better or worse.

Khalil Mack: You could say that Mack, whom many saw as the most versatile defensive player in the draft, simply fell into the Raiders' lap at No. 5 overall. And that would be just fine with Oakland. Because in remaking the defense, Allen has compared Mack to Denver Broncos All-Pro linebacker Von Miller, whom Allen coached as a rookie. If Mack, who has stepped in at strongside linebacker, shows a smidgen of Miller's pass rushing acumen -- 35 sacks in 40 career games -- the Raiders have a cornerstone. Mack's blend of size, speed and athleticism were evident in the offseason workouts as he appeared to be a physical marvel with quick feet and balance. Alas, the game will change in camp when the pads come on. No, he's not nervous; Mack is looking forward to knocking heads with the pros. Or did you miss his declaration that he is most looking forward to sacking the Broncos' Peyton Manning? Mack has impressed the staff and teammates alike by constantly being in veterans' ears, picking the brain of players such as Justin Tuck. Mack is a sponge. Yes, similar praise was heaped upon Rolando McClain when the middle linebacker was drafted in 2010. This just feels different.

D.J. Hayden: The Raiders were impressed enough with Hayden to make him their top pick last year, even though he was still recovering from the practice injury to his heart at the University of Houston that nearly killed him. After an up-and-down rookie season that ended with a trip to injured reserve, Hayden again hit a speed bump. This time, he missed the second and third organized team activities (OTAs) sessions as well as minicamp due to a sprained ankle. Allen has said that the only player he expects to be a question mark health-wise entering camp is offensive lineman Lucas Nix. But with so many hopes tied into Hayden -- he was penciled in to start at right cornerback -- his injury history has to have Oakland worried. Even if he is a full go at the start of camp, he missed valuable reps in the offseason. Sure, Hayden got mental reps, but they are not nearly as important or effective, especially for a player who many in the organization see as a bonus draft pick since he appeared in only eight games (two starts) last season.
NAPA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders have reached out to Omar Gaither once again.

With Miles Burris and Kaluka Maiava injured, the Raiders have re-signed Gaither. He finished last season at middle linebacker after the team suspended Rolando McClain, who has since been cut. Gaither is a solid veteran backup who gives good depth. Both Burris and Maiava will be out for an undisclosed amount of time.

Oakland receiver Jacoby Ford remains out. He was injured Sunday. He hasn’t played since midway through the 2011 season because of foot injuries.

In other AFC West notes:
  • Fullback Vonta Leach re-signed with Baltimore. He was previously linked to Kansas City. But the Chiefs never made a big push for him.
  • Houston signed linebacker Joe Mays. He was recently cut by Denver.
  • Max Starks was working at left tackle Monday in San Diego. King Dunlap was working there for the first four days of camp. Starks is expected to have a strong chance to win the job.

Links: More woes for Denver front office

July, 10, 2013
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Denver Broncos

Denver's director of pro personnel, Tom Heckert, was arrested on DUI charges last month. Jeff Legwold and Ryan Parker of the Denver Post have the story. This news comes one day after news broke that the team's director of player personnel, Matt Russell, was arrested on DUI charges in Summit County last weekend. Russell and Heckert face punishment from the legal system, and also the Broncos and the NFL in terms of suspensions and fines. A rehabilitation program is also likely to be mandated.

Of the arrests, Mike Kiszla of the Denver Post writes: There will be no self-righteous wagging of the finger by me at the NFL franchise whose every move affects the heart of Denver. But the sobering truth is: The Broncos must do something more than say they're sorry.

Broncos strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson talks about getting the team ready for the 2013 campaign. Stuart Zaas of the team's website has the story.

Kansas City Chiefs

Cornerback Brandon Flowers told NFL Network's "NFL AM" crew on Wednesday that the Chiefs "have the pieces to be the best secondary in the NFL." Marc Sessler of NFL.com has the story.

Oakland Raiders

Former Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain, now retired, filed not guilty pleas to charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest Tuesday through his attorney, writes Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. During the arraignment in his hometown of Decatur, Ala., McClain was assigned a Dec. 12 court date.

The team's website takes a decade-by-decade look at the Raiders' history with their 2013 opponents, beginning with the Cowboys.

San Diego Chargers

Ricky Henne of the team's website answers questions from readers regarding changes to the field, injuries and the new-look defense.
Rolando McClain just closed the book on one of the most disappointing, bizarre NFL careers in recent memory.

The linebacker -- who was the No. 8 overall pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2010 -- has retired from the NFL. He is 23.

McClain was recently signed by Baltimore after he was cut by the Raiders. He was arrested in his hometown of Decauter, Alabama for the third time in a year-and-a-half shortly after joining the Ravens. Seemingly out the blue McClain told the team this week that he is leaving the game.

Of course, this cements McClain’s status as a tremendous draft bust. But it all raises more questions of what he is thinking about?

Why would he quit? What is he going to do with his life at 23 instead of playing football? Is he going to stay in his hometown, a place where he clearly has proven he cannot stay out of trouble?

I hope for McClain’s future and for his family that he can find some type of happiness and peace away from the NFL that he couldn’t achieve while playing.

Maybe McClain will get his head together and attempt a comeback at some point. But that will not be easy. Teams are simply not going to welcome McClain with open arms.

In addition to his legal issues, McClain struggled on the field, he was a locker-room issue and he was known for not being coachable.

This is probably the end for McClain in the NFL. Hopefully, moving on from the game will help McClain as he moves forward in life.
Yahoo! Sports is reporting that Kansas City left tackle Branden Albert wants a contract in the range that former Miami left tackle Jake Long recently signed with St. Louis. Long signed with the Rams for $34 million over four years. Yahoo! reports the Dolphins will not continue to pursue a deal unless Albert lowers his demands.

While it could be a holdout, I think the situation is fluid and the demands are just part of the process. I could see Albert lowering his price to get a deal done before or during this week’s draft. A potential trade would very likely involve one of Miami’s two second-round picks, so the deal will be made by Friday night if it happens.

In other AFC West news:
  • According to Todd McShay and Mel Kiper , the first round of the draft doesn’t change much for the AFC West because of the Darrelle Revis trade from the Jets to the Buccaneers.
  • Washington is visiting with San Diego cornerback Quentin Jammer. The Chargers have mild interest in bringing Jammer back.
  • Former Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain was arrested for the third time in the past year and a half in his Alabama hometown. McClain was recently cut by the Raiders and signed by Baltimore. He was the No. 8 overall draft pick in 2010.
  • Here is an ESPN video with former Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell. He is trying to come back after being cut by the Raiders three years ago.
  • It seems Denver pass-rusher Von Miller is looking forward to the Chiefs drafting his former Texas A&M teammate Luke Joeckel.
  • Denver safety Rahim Moore seems to have a good handle on things as he prepares bounce back from a colossal playoff gaffe.

Rolando McClain has deal with Ravens

April, 10, 2013
4/10/13
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Former Oakland Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain has agreed to a deal with the Baltimore Ravens, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

McClain
Before the contract is formalized on Friday, McClain is required to pass a physical and meet with general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh regarding their expectations.

McClain told a newspaper in Alabama on Wednesday that he expects to sign a one-year deal with the Ravens.

"It's a move that can't go wrong and I'm looking forward to playing in Baltimore as the Ravens run the same or very similar defense as I was a part of at the University of Alabama," he told the Madison (Ala.) Weekly News.

"Ray Lewis retired after winning the Super Bowl and I look to fill his slot," McClain told the newspaper. "No one can fill his shoes, but I can fill his slot. I just want to fill out the shoes of Rolando McClain. This is a perfect fit for me personally."

For the full story, click here.

AFC West links: Will Chiefs draft a guard?

April, 10, 2013
4/10/13
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Denver Broncos

"I'd say there's a 33 percent chance the Broncos will draft a running back in the first round," writes The Denver Post's Mike Klis, who considers the position to be one of the top three needs for Denver.

Gray Caldwell of DenverBroncos.com takes a look at five of the top draft prospects at the inside and outside linebacker positions.

Oakland Raiders

Defensive end Andre Carter said via conference call with the media that he was optimistic he would be re-signed by the team this offseason, despite the many changes to the Raiders' coaching staff.

The Raiders were a busy bunch on Tuesday, closing out the day by signing free agent safety Usama Young and re-signing slot cornerback Joselio Hanson.

Linebacker Rolando McClain, the No. 8 overall pick by Oakland in 2010, is reportedly working on a contract with the Ravens.

Kansas City Chiefs

A guard has never been selected with the first pick of the NFL draft, and the Kansas City Star's Randy Covitz says, "If ever there were a year for a guard to go first overall, this could be it." Will the Chiefs make it happen?

The Chiefs have contacted veteran offensive lineman Ryan Lilja about playing another season, and he was receptive to the idea, according to Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star. Lilja, who is still rehabbing from surgeries on his knee and toe, is not likely to sign a deal soon, the newspaper reports.

Reid Ferrin of the team's website profiles USC quarterback Matt Barkley as a draft prospect.

San Diego Chargers

While the Chargers are in need of a legitimate left tackle to protect Philip Rivers' blind side, guard might be in even worse shape, reports NFL.com's Chris Wesseling.

Ricky Henne of the team's website profiles Oregon offensive lineman Kyle Long.
The Oakland Raiders officially dumped Rolando McClain less than three years after the team made him the No. 8 overall pick in the draft.

However, McClain has been out the door in Oakland for more than four months.

The team suspended the middle linebacker for conduct detrimental in November for two games. Once his suspension was lifted, McClain never saw the field again. He was relegated to a scout team running back in practice. The Raiders held onto him for salary-cap purposes and finally dumped him Friday.

He asked permission to seek a trade, but that was almost comical. No team was going to give Oakland anything for a player who was a bust on the field and who has been arrested twice since he was drafted. Perhaps a team will give him a chance to revive his career (I’d be surprised if that happened in the AFC West) but the Raiders are not going to get anything for it. The Raiders will take a $7.26 million cap hit.

McClain was a problem on and off the field and was a disaster. He had to go. Oakland signed Nick Roach from Chicago to play middle linebacker.

This signifies another first-round bust for this franchise. The frustrating part of this one is McClain was considered a safe pick when he was drafted after several previous questionable decisions in the first round. He was a star at Alabama and there didn’t seem to be many negatives about him.

But McClain was overmatched in the NFL from the start and his surly personality never made him a favorite in any circle in Oakland.

Oakland has just two first-round picks left on the roster. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski (2000) and running back Darren McFadden (2008). McClain is the third first-round pick Oakland has jettisoned this offseason as he joins safety Michael Huff (2006) and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (2009).

Because of trades for defensive lineman Richard Seymour and quarterback Carson Palmer (they both left the team this year too) Oakland hasn’t had a first-round pick in the past two years. Reggie McKenzie will get his first first-round pick with the No. 3 selection later this month. Cutting McClain is another reminder of how important this first choice will be for the Raiders.
The Oakland Raiders’ salary-cap troubles have been well documented.

But after paying the price for years of wild spending, the Raiders will be paroled from salary-cap jail. Next year, after shedding several contracts and being unable to build their program by keeping their own coveted free agents, the Raiders will be in better shape.

ESPN’s John Clayton has a strong grasp on the salary cap and figures that Oakland will have about $69 million in cap space for 2014. That number will likely change based on several things, but it is clear that Oakland will have an abundance of cap room next year as it continues to rebuild its roster. For the first time since Reggie McKenzie took over as general manager in 2012, Oakland will not have to cut players to get under the cap.

Before you start fantasizing about a Pro Bowl stable of free agents coming to the East Bay, a surplus of cap room doesn’t automatically mean that team can sign all the best players. Many teams have cap space good enough to do what they wish; some don’t use their surplus just because they have it. Jacksonville, for example, still has more than $25 million remaining in cap room for this season but has completed virtually all its significant spending.

I expect McKenzie to take a measured approach next year with his newfound salary-cap good fortune. He cut his teeth in Green Bay under Ted Thompson -- who built Green Bay into an elite team by not pursuing outside free agents and keeping his best players.

That’s how McKenzie aims to operate.

So there's no reason to think that good homegrown players will leave the Raiders after the 2013 season. They don’t have a ton of core players, but there are some. Defensive lineman Lamarr Houston, offensive lineman Jared Veldheer and Stefen Wisniewski and receiver Denarius Moore are among the players who should be in line for long-term contracts as the Raiders build from within. Running back Darren McFadden is entering the final season of his contract and if he can stay healthy, Oakland will likely be interested in keeping him.

Once the Raiders identify these types of players and lock them up, Oakland will complement the roster with some outside purchases. But it starts from within for McKenzie.

Two things have hurt Oakland: past wild spending on veterans and poor first-round drafting. We’ve seen that with the departures of such players as Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Carson Palmer, Darrius Heyward-Bey and the likely release of Rolando McClain. Had those players not crippled Oakland’s cap, the Raiders would have been able to keep solid players such as Philip Wheeler, Desmond Bryant and Brandon Myers in free agency this year.

This nasty process has depleted Oakland’s roster. The healing begins next year, when Oakland won't be motivated by pure financial necessity and can start making prudent decisions to build the franchise the right way.
Oakland’s expected visit with cornerback Mike Jenkins took place Tuesday. Earlier in the day, the team agreed to terms on a one-year deal with former Denver cornerback Tracy Porter.

The Raiders need another starting cornerback. Jenkins has some interest from Buffalo and Jacksonville, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up in Oakland.

Meanwhile, now that the Carson Palmer issue has been resolved with his trade to Arizona, I wonder what will become of the Rolando McClain situation. The linebacker is not expected back. His agent has reportedly asked to seek a trade, but there has not been any reported interest. If he is not traded, he will in all likelihood be cut. There is no timeline, and Oakland is clearly not in a rush to do anything.

New Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn talked about his journey to Oakland in his introductory press conference.

Oakland could potentially look at safety Usama Young, who was cut by Cleveland. Raiders coach Dennis Allen was his position coach in New Orleans, and Oakland needs help at safety.

In other AFC West notes:

The family of the late Junior Seau offered ESPN The Magazine a special look at a photo album of his life. The legendary San Diego linebacker committed suicide last May at the age of 43.

The Chiefs cut lineman Rich Ranglin.
Predictably, Oakland coach Dennis Allen didn’t come out and directly answer the question whether the Oakland Raiders will move to a 3-4 defense.

He said Tuesday that the team will be "multiple" in its alignments. But by the sound of his answer it seems like Allen is not going to shed his beliefs and adopt a new system. Oakland ran a 4-3 base defense last season.

“When I took the job, not only in Denver but when I took the job in Oakland, I believed in the ability to be multiple,” Allen said. “I like to be multiple but yet simple, and that's again, easier said than done sometimes. So I think now the fact that we have four starting-caliber linebackers, that's going to give us the ability to be more multiple. ... We spent a whole year putting in a defense and putting in a system of what we believe in. That core of what we believe in is not going to change. Now, we've got more ability and more flexibility in some of the things we can do, and we can add some things that we feel like can present some problems for the offense.”

It will be interesting to see how it develops in training camp and early in the season. There is no question that Oakland has pieces for both defenses. The versatility starts at linebacker.

The Raiders signed linebackers Nick Roach, Kevin Burnett and Kaluka Maiava. Plus, they have promising second-year linebacker Miles Burris. Allen said Tuesday that Roach is a 4-3 middle linebacker, not a 3-4 linebacker. However, Burnett is a 3-4 linebacker. So, Oakland has options.

There is a risk here in having some players to fit some schemes and some who fit others. The key will be to build depth and get enough quality players for each set.

But by reading into Allen’s words Tuesday, it would be a surprise if the Raiders stray from their current system.

Major tip to NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert for asking this question for me Tuesday at the NFL owners meeting.

The Raiders’ website has more of Allen’s comments from Tuesday’s owners meeting.

In other AFC West notes:

NFL Network reported the agent for Rolando McClain asked the Raiders to try to trade McClain. There won’t be a huge market for a slow, first-round bust with off-field issues. At some point, a decision is going to have to be made.

Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei has been cleared to work out after a heart issue kept him out of the NFL combine. He could potentially be a target of Kansas City with the No. 1 pick.

Please check out our free-agent tracker for updated free-agency movement.
A look at some of the storylines that stood out most in the first day of free agency Tuesday:

Where’s the defense in Oakland? As of now, the Oakland Raiders have just three set starters on defense -- lineman Lamarr Houston, linebacker Miles Burris and safety Tyvon Branch. That’s scary. Yes, Oakland will add players and will field a defense, but that fact shows you how much work needs to be done.

Where’s the offensive line in San Diego? The San Diego Chargers’ offensive line is in just as bad a shape as Oakland’s defense. The team’s best offensive lineman, guard Louis Vasquez, defected to the Denver Broncos on Tuesday. The Chargers might need to find starters everywhere on the line but center. They have to get to work, although new signee King Dunlap could be in the mix somewhere.

Another "dream team" for Reid? The Chiefs have been wildly busy all offseason. Some detractors are saying new Kansas City coach Andy Reid is taking the same “dream team” approach his Eagles took two years ago when they stockpiled many big-name free agents. It didn’t work. This is a much different approach. The Chiefs had to keep their top free agents, had to get a quarterback in Alex Smith and have added some key rotational players in free agency. There isn’t a ton of flash here. A solid roster is being built.

Vasquez's signing is big for Denver: Thus far, the Vasquez signing in Denver was the best work we've seen in the AFC West since the opening of free agency. He toughens the offensive line in Denver and makes it better. Vasquez and tackle Orlando Franklin on the right side are going to be a load in the running game. Plus, the signing hurt a division rival. Very solid move.

Lack of first-round impact hurts Oakland: The Raiders cut a pair of former first-round picks, safety Michael Huff (2006) and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (2009), on Tuesday; linebacker Rolando McClain (2010) is expected to be cut soon. That would leave just running back Darren McFadden (2008) and kicker Sebastian Janikowski (2000) as the only Raiders first-round picks on the roster. That is not the way to build a team. The Raiders have the No. 3 pick in April's draft. They must get this one correct. Right now, I’d say the top options there are either Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd or Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner.
There is no doubt the Oakland Raiders are in a tough spot.

For the second straight year the Raiders are facing a tough salary-cap situation because of wild, irresponsible spending by the previous regime. The result is a second year of tough decisions.

As the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs worked to improve Tuesday, the Raiders had to hit the refresh button again.

Oakland cut safety Michael Huff, receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and defensive end Dave Tollefson. The Heyward-Bey (Oakland has other young receivers) and Tollefson cuts were not surprising. But the Huff cut was. He played well at cornerback in an emergency last year and the team was moving him back to safety. He didn’t want to take a pay cut.

The team also saw linebacker Philip Wheeler (Miami) and defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (Cleveland) sign lucrative five-year deals. Huff and Wheeler were among the best players on a porous defense in 2012 and Bryant is expected to have a strong future.

Oakland will likely either get a pay reduction from quarterback Carson Palmer or cut him. Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and linebacker Rolando McClain are expected to be cut.

ESPN’s John Clayton reports Oakland is $14.66 million under the cap. They will be able to do some things. But the problem is that they have many holes. They have to restock this roster.

I understand all of these moves. But the truth is, this team can’t afford to lose good players. Wheeler and Huff were good players.

I expect Huff to attract interest on the open market. Heyward-Bey -- a big disappointment after being the No. 7 overall pick in 2009 -- will likely get some mild interest on the open market because of his speed.

The part of these moves that has to be a tad worrisome is the new regime is still dealing with decisions it made last year. Safety Tyvon Branch and guard Mike Brisiel did big restructures and Tollefson was cut. During a time of flux like this, the moves that are being made must work or the trouble will continue.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Raiders are expected to finally cut loose massive bust Rolando McClain on Tuesday when the league's new fiscal year begins.

The paper explains that McClain’s $7.26 million dead-money salary-cap hit could then be spread over two seasons. For a team tight against the salary cap, that is important.

It has been expected for months that the middle linebacker -- taken with the No. 8 pick overall in the 2010 draft -- would be cut. McClain, 23, was suspended two games by the Raiders for detrimental conduct, then didn’t play once the suspension was lifted.

McClain has been a major disappointment on the field and in the locker room, and he has been arrested twice in less than two years.

Meanwhile, Oakland free-agent linebacker Phillip Wheeler told the Chronicle he is unsure if he will return to the Raiders. He is one of the team’s top priorities.

Also, the Browns reportedly plan to show interest in Oakland defensive tackle Desmond Bryant when free agency begins. Bryant could be hot on the open market.

McKenzie discusses cap situation

February, 22, 2013
2/22/13
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The good news for Reggie McKenzie is this year’s salary-cap situation is not as bad as last year when he took over the Oakland Raiders.

The bad news is the Raiders are still nowhere near where McKenzie wants to be regarding the salary cap.

Last year, the new Oakland regime had to make massive cuts. This year, more salary-cap cuts are likely on the way.

“We have some decisions to make, and there may be some tough decisions,” McKenzie said. “But we have until March 12 [when free agency and the new league year begins] and we will make them by then. Nothing is imminent … This won’t be as bad as last year, but it’s not where we want to be. Hopefully, next year we can start to get out of it a little bit.”

McKenzie wouldn’t discuss any specific player contracts. But players like defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey seems to be prime candidates to be cut if they don’t restructure their deals. Quarterback Carson Palmer also could be cut, because he has a salary-cap number of more than $13 million. Still, at this point, I get the sense that the Raiders would prefer to work something out with Palmer.

While the salary cap is fluid, McKenzie doesn’t expect to have a surplus of cap room once all the decisions have been made.

“We will have some [room], but not a lot,” McKenzie said. “I’m not going to be able to go spending a bunch of money this year … We will be able to go after some middle-tier guys.”

Meanwhile, McKenzie said no decision has been made on the future of middle linebacker Rolando McClain. But it appears McClain, who was suspended by the team late last year, will be jettisoned. Also, McKenzie said the team is interested in trying to keep free-agent punter Shane Lechler.

But, of course, the salary cap will play a role in all moves this year.

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