The Las Vegas Raiders are still in the beginning stages of training camp and have already made one somewhat surprising cut by letting tight end O.J. Howard go. Howard likely won’t be the last shocker though as a few veterans like safety Tre’von Moehrig and defensive tackle Neil Farrell Jr., among others, could easily be on the chopping block.
Even before training camp started, one of the topics of conversation surrounding the Raiders was about how Moehrig will be looking for a bounce-back year in 2023. He struggled to adjust to defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s system, allowing a 72.5 completion percentage and 354 receiving yards when targeted last season. Those figures were nearly 12 points higher and more than double, respectively, from his rookie season.
We’ve already seen head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler be quick to let players go who were drafted by the previous regime regardless of how high said player was drafted, as Alex Leatherwood is a great example.
McDaniels and Ziegler brought in “their guys” at free safety this offseason by signing Jaquan Johnson and drafting Christopher Smith II. Also, free agent acquisition Marcus Epps primarily lined up at free safety for the Philadelphia Eagles, so if someone like Isaiah Pola-Mao can take over the box role, that’s another way Moehrig can get pushed out.
Las Vegas could look to trade the 2021 second-round pick at the end of camp but, regardless, don’t be surprised if he’s not on the roster in September. According to Over The Cap, the team would save a little less than $1.4 million in cap space by moving on from Moehrig this year.
Neil Farrell Jr.
Farrell Jr. is another player who is looking to take a big step in 2023. He had an interesting rookie year where, just when it seemed like he was in line for a bigger role after the team traded Johnathan Hankins, Farrell Jr. was a healthy scratch for a disciplinary issue in Week 10. Then, he played in just five of the Raiders’ last eight games, taking more than 15 defensive snaps just once in those contests.
Maybe it’s the skeptic in me, but something seemed fishy about that situation and it doesn’t help that the LSU product is beginning camp on the Non-Football Injured list, meaning he won’t be practicing after suffering an injury while away from the team. Subsequently, the Silver and Black re-signed Kyle Peko, adding some competition for the roster spot.
From the looks of fit, Farrell Jr. doesn’t appear to be in the coaching staff’s good graces, and he struggled to produce last year even in the preseason. So, he could easily be a one-and-done player in Las Vegas.
Maybe the news above about Howard means Austin Hooper is safe, but I wouldn’t feel too comfortable if I were him.
The Raiders have a couple of tight ends who are good pass-catchers in rookie Michael Mayer and Jesper Horsted, which is Hooper’s strength. However, they could use a good run-blocker and the latter has posted an above-average PFF grade in that department once in the last four seasons, highlighted by a career-low 46.7 mark last year.
Meanwhile, Horsted is coming off a preseason where he earned a run-blocking grade in the low 80s and that was Cole Fotheringham’s specialty at Utah. Especially given that both of those guys are younger and thus, have more potential, Hooper still isn’t safe even though he’s now the longest-tenured player in the meeting room.
I hesitate to list Alex Bars as a potential ‘surprise’ cut because he was so bad last season. But a player who started 14 games a year ago and entered training camp as a first-stringer would still qualify if he’s let go, in my opinion.
The Raiders brought in Greg Van Roten, a 33-year-old veteran, late in free agency to, presumptively, push Bars for the starting spot.
Van Roten made three starts—and played in two other games—at right guard for the Buffalo Bills in 2022, and he only surrendered five pressures with none being a sack or a QB hit. That was an issue with Bars last season as he was tied for the sixth-most sacks allowed among guards (five) and gave up the fifth-most hits (11).
Las Vegas also has a couple of intriguing young interior offensive linemen in Netane Muti and Curtis McClendon. Muti was plucked off the Denver Broncos practice squad a year ago, and the Silver and Black re-signed him in the offseason so, clearly, the team’s brass saw something they like from him. Meanwhile, McClendon is an undrafted free agent who was named as a UDFA to watch by PFF.
Long story short, there is a world where Bars gets cut and Van Roten serves as the starting right guard while Muti and McClendon are the backups.
David Long Jr.
The Raiders’ cornerback room was already a little crowded before the Marcus Peters signing and now, there isn’t a whole lot of breathing room. Before Peters’ arrival, David Long Jr. was considered a projected starter, but he could easily end up looking for a new team at the end of the month.
Between Jakorian Bennett, Tyler Hall and Sam Webb, Las Vegas has a handful of young corners who they’d probably like to keep around and develop. So, if Peters, Duke Shelley and Nate Hobbs are the defense’s starting corners, that could make Long Jr. the odd man out, especially with veteran Brandon Facyson in the mix too.
The former Ram does have some starting experience which works in his favor, but he is coming off a campaign where he allowed nearly a 75 percent completion rate and earned a sub-par 54.2 PFF coverage grade.
It will be worth monitoring Facyson’s injury situation—he was carted off the field during Tuesday’s practice—as that will certainly play a factor in Long Jr.’s status with the team.