More and more in today's NFL, we're discovering concussions can be scary. They can end careers prematurely and severely affect players later in life who have suffered multiple concussions in their NFL careers. So, when a play is placed on injured reserve from a concussion, there are serious concerns raised.
Such is the case for Raiders middle linebacker, Nick Roach. He was lost to a concussion in the preseason on August 22 and never returned to the field. Each week that passed you thought he must be ready to return and yet each week he was still not ready. Then on October 8, a month and a half since he first went out, the Raiders put him on the shelf for the season.
Reports not long after suggested Roach will be fine to resume playing next season. I'm not sure how much to trust those reports considering it was only week 4 of the season. If there were signs he was going to be fine, the Raiders would have waited it out.
In his place was Miles Burris who was playing out of position. The other middle linebacker, Kaluka Maiava was lost to a hamstring injury the week before they gave up on Roach returning. The Raiders were desperate. If they thought Roach was going to be right as rain even by midseason, they would have waited. It just wasn't worth the risk.
Let's not go overboard on the savior status of Roach. He certainly would have been an upgrade from Burris, but even when he was at his best, he was still not one of the better middle linebackers in the league. His run support rating according to Pro Football Focus was the second worst in the NFL in 2013.
He is due $2.8 million in salary this coming season with a cap hit of $3.7 million. Should he be cut, he would leave behind $1.6 million in dead money which is a savings of $2.1 million.
This is the point where I remind you the Raiders don't really need to save any money as they are set to have over $60 million available under the cap.
What this also affords them is the funds to upgrade the position. When Roach was initially signed to his four-year deal, they were pinching pennies and he was one of the few players they could afford. Now they can do better.
Keeping him around would accomplish a couple things. It would have someone in place at the position and therefore not create a need where there may not be one. It also allows them to not tip their hand to other teams in the draft.
Should they cut Roach and not pick anyone up in free agency, they would be forced to pass up potentially better players at other positions to fill the need at middle linebacker. In addition, other teams would know they were in the market for a middle linebacker and plan accordingly.
The Raiders have been here before. They were looking to move on from Kirk Morrison, but they waited until they had drafted Rolando McClain in the first round and then traded Morrison to move up a round later in the draft. That's how you play the game.
So, it would seem the Raiders are at a crossroads. Do they put their faith in Roach who may just be another concussion away calling it a career? Or do they cut ties and move on, and thus losing a potential starter or at very least solid depth and thrusting middle linebacker to near the top of their team needs?
If they're comfortable moving forward with Roach, keep him. If not, once a replacement is secured, cut ties. Those are the options.