The Las Vegas Raiders veterans are set to join the rookies and report to training camp on Tuesday and while the next month-plus of practice is important for every player on the roster, some will be feeling the desert heat more than others. One player in particular who could be sweltering during camp is cornerback Amik Robertson.
Robertson is entering his fourth season in the NFL and with the Silver and Black which is also a contract year for him. He’ll be playing on the last year of his rookie deal for about $1.13 million, so this month will be his first opportunity to build a case to get a big raise in the offseason while simultaneously working to make the team’s 53-man roster.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Raiders would save a little more than $1 million in cap space and only take on slightly less than $125,000 in dead money by cutting Robertson at the end of August. That could be an intriguing proposition for a club that only has $2.8 million of breathing room—third-lowest in the league—heading into camp. Especially since he’s currently projected to be a backup and will be a free agent at season’s end anyway.
Also, Las Vegas brought in plenty of competition in the cornerback room this offseason, which head coach Josh McDaniels talked about during the team’s spring practices.
“Yeah, it’s competitive, there’s no question,” McDaniels said about the position group. “...We talk about acquisitions is one part of trying to improve any unit, doesn’t matter what it is. And we basically tried to improve the competition in every room that we could.
“...And so, the guys that are here for our second year with them, whether they were a rookie last year like Sam Webb, or it’s just our second opportunity to work with them in the spring like Nate Hobbs and Amik Robertson, there’s an element of our responsibility is to improve the players that are already here.”
Of course, the coaching staff plays a big role in a player’s development, but it’s still the responsibility of the guys on the field to put the work in, so the onus ultimately falls back on the player, especially when veterans with starting experience enter the building.
The Raiders signed cornerbacks David Long Jr., Duke Shelley and Brandon Facyson this offseason who combine for 38 career starts, an average of about 13 per player. Meanwhile, Robertson only has nine NFL starts to his name, seven of which came last season when the defense’s corners suffered injury after injury and he became a first-stringer by default.
The difference in starting experience is a big why Long Jr. and Shelley are ahead of Robertson on the projected depth chart, meaning the latter has some ground to make up this summer. Not to be forgotten is Nate Hobbs, another presumptive first-stringer who has 20 career starts during his first two seasons in the league.
It doesn’t help matters that Las Vegas drafted another corner; Jakorian Bennett, in the fourth round, who shares a similar skill set.
Part of the four-year veteran’s competitive advantage is that he can play inside and outside, which Bennett also has some experience doing at the college level. Plus, the rookie holds a size advantage—5’11” to 5’8”—and has a more team-friendly contract situation where he won’t be looking for a new deal in March.
So, with all of this working against Robertson; how does he end up making the Raiders’ 53-man roster? By continuing to build on his momentum from last season.
As referenced above, the Silver and Black asked the 2020 fourth-round pick to step up and fill in at multiple spots with all of the injuries they suffered at the position last season. He responded by logging a career-high 677 total snaps—over 500 more than his first two years combined—360 of which came as wide corner and 283 were covering the slot, per Pro Football Focus.
But he wasn’t just out on the field, he played well too. Roberston ended 2022 with six pass breakups, the most on the team, and as the only corner to intercept a pass for the Silver and Black. He logged two picks which were tied with Duron Harmon and Denzel Perryman for the team lead. Both Harmon and Perryman are no longer on Las Vegas’ roster, meaning Robertson is one of the few carry-overs from last season who can create turnovers.
So, the four-year pro has an excellent opportunity to earn a Week 1 starting job for the first time in his career and thus, make some money in the offseason. However, given the competition and the situation at hand, it’s certainly crunch time for him as well.