Since the dawn of free agency, one simple axiom has rang true for fans of every football team: Players will come to your team, and players will leave your team. No front office will pay out escalating salaries forever, and no football player ever gets younger over the course of their career.
There are a number of Raider players for whom the writing is on the wall this season. While they may remain productive, due to their age or situation it’s likely that their time as Raiders is quickly drawing to an end following the 2018 campaign.
Let’s look at a few of them and examine how the Raiders plan to move on without them. For the purposes of this piece I am ignoring any free agent who was brought in from another team on a one-year deal like Jordy Nelson et al.
LB Shilique Calhoun: This one seems obvious, because Calhoun is a restricted free agent next year and signed a one-year deal for 2018. However, Calhoun has been miscast as a coverage linebacker by some defensive coaching staffs we won’t mention and is really only good at rushing the passer. If Paul Guenther can figure out how to use him properly, maybe he stays, who knows.
G/C Jon Feliciano: Here’s a player who might be a victim of his own team’s success. Feliciano has proven himself to be a fine guard/center combo player, but those are the two positions the Raiders need new starters at the least. Feliciano could start on a dozen or more teams in the NFL right now (looking at you, Seattle and Denver) and he should go somewhere that will give him more playing time and a chance to shine.
DE Mario Edwards: As a rookie, Edwards showed off his tremendous promise and was one of the bright spots on a middling team. But as his career has gone on, he has become less productive and the Raiders have just drafted two interior defensive linemen on a line that already boasts Justin Ellis and Eddie Vanderdoes (who could find himself on this list sooner than later). If Edwards regains his rookie form he could earn another deal, but if the Raiders decide to move on one has to imagine someone like Jerry Jones would be interested in the big Florida State product, whose father played for the Cowboys in the days of yore.
S Reggie Nelson: We all were sure last year was it for Nelson, whose skills and physical abilities have fallen off a cliff. But then, miracle of miracles, the Raiders hired Paul Guenther as defensive coordinator and there are few players who know Guenther’s system as well as Reggie Nelson does. So, despite his diminished skillset, it does make sense that Oakland brought Nelson back on a one-year deal if for nothing else than to be a veteran presence on a secondary that sorely needs it. Surely though, this is his last hurrah as a Raider. Right?
RB Marshawn Lynch: It will be a sad day in Raidertown when Beast Mode calls it quits. There has rarely been a Raider who has played with the kind of love, exuberance, and passion for the Nation that Lynch has shown in his one season with the team. Charles Woodson and Tim Brown come to mind as men with the same sort of affinity for the Raiders as what Lynch has shown.
But all good things must come to an end, and Lynch’s age (32 years old) would indicate that this might be his last season in the NFL. Jon Gruden has given us every indication that he is going to use Lynch as a feature back and run him until he drops, which may mean that Lynch’s final season could be one of his best. For all of our sakes, let’s hope so, and send Lynch off with another Super Bowl win as he rides off to Canton.
Is there anyone I’m missing? Who else do you think will have played their final game in Silver and Black when the 2018 campaign breathes its last?