Raiders Place Austin Howard On IR

The Raiders sent their second starting left tackle this season to injured reserve, putting regular-season starter Austin Howard on the season-ending list with a knee injury, Scott Bair of reports (on Twitter).

In a corresponding move, the team brought safety Tevin McDonald back onto the active roster.

Howard was in the middle of a strong comeback season for a resurgent Raiders front despite not being the starter for most of the preseason. Menelik Watson‘s season-ending Achilles tear in August opened the door for Howard to take over at right tackle in Oakland.

The Raiders signed Howard to a five-year, $30MM contract in March of 2014 after the former undrafted free agent established value in three years with the Jets from 2011-13. Jack Del Rio categorized Howard as day-to-day earlier this week, but that designation means less with three games to play.

Although Howard struggled at guard last season, he returned to play tackle after Watson went down and gave the Raiders one of the top edge pairings in the league. Teaming with impending free agent Donald Penn, Howard rated as Pro Football Focus’ No. 21 tackle. Penn slots 10th on PFF’s hierarchy. Only the Browns, who start Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz, have two tackles rated in the PFF top 20.

Howard has just $4.2MM in dead money left on the remaining three years of his contract, and the Raiders do possess a league-high $61MM worth of cap space if they wanted to upgrade in the offseason. But considering the holes Oakland has on defense and the 28-year-old Howard’s bounce-back campaign, standing pat here makes the most sense.

The Raiders house Khalif Barnes and Matt McCants as second-string tackles. The 33-year-old Barnes has far more experience, starting 117 games with the Jaguars and Raiders.

One of the longest-tenured Raiders, Barnes has been with Oakland since the 2010 season.

Oscillating between the 53-man roster and the practice squad all season, McDonald represents safety depth. Nate Allen won’t play in Sunday’s Week 15 contest.

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