Eddy Pineiro

Raiders Rumors: Switzer, DL, Kickers

While Jon Gruden‘s yet to bestow much praise upon Martavis Bryant, the Raiders’ other wide receiver trade acquisition has impressed the new coach. It’s looking like the former Cowboys draft choice will have a role in the passing game, and Ryan Switzer certainly will contribute on special teams. Switzer returned seven punts for touchdowns while at North Carolina, including five his freshman year. He returned a punt for a score last season as a rookie.

He’s a guy that can change the game, I think, on third down. He’s a tough matchup,” Gruden said, via Vic Tafur of The Athletic (subscription required). “He’s quick. He has vertical speed. He has special teams ability. … I love Switzer. I think he’s one of the best punt returners of college football, perhaps the history of college football. He’s as good as I saw.”

Seth Roberts has served as the Raiders’ top slot option for the better part of the past three seasons for a team that hasn’t featured much depth at the position. Switzer, if nothing else, may supply that.

Here’s the latest out of Oakland.

  • It’s not finalized the Raiders will play the 2019 season in Oakland, but they will remain in Napa, Calif., for training camp next year. It could be their last one in northern California, however. In 2020, Reno has emerged as the favorite, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal notes. Reno officials visited Raiders camp this weekend, Gehlken reports, and Las Vegas has been ruled out as a camp site. The Raiders hope to play the 2019 season in Oakland, and while 2020 represents the franchise’s relocation goal, a firm departure date hasn’t been established.
  • Giorgio Tavecchio‘s kicking foot looks to have played a key part in his Raiders downfall. Holder Johnny Townsend had to switch sides when the Silver and Black alternated reps between last year’s kicker (Tavecchio, who is left-footed) and rookie UDFA Eddy Pineiro, and Gruden was tired of that continuing to be required, he said today (via Tafur). Gruden added that Pineiro has kicked well in camp and that he views Mike Nugent as a legitimate option, rather than a mere mentor.
  • The Raiders have not been able to supplement Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin with much in the way of complementary pass rushers the past two seasons, but a growing belief exists among Raiders coaches and scouts their rookie contingent of defensive linemen — P.J. Hall, Arden Key and Maurice Hurst — can be early contributors, Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. The team has injury-prone defensive end Mario Edwards entering a contract year and fifth-year nose tackle Justin Ellis back. And the Raiders signed Tank Carradine in March. Eddie Vanderdoes enters his second season after being a primary starter as a rookie, but he’s coming off an ACL tear. The team looks to have a deeper pool of options up front.
  • The Raiders are also making some history on their strength and conditioning staff. Kelsey Martinez is signed on to work as an assistant strength assistant, Gehlken writes. The 26-year-old becomes the franchise’s first woman to work in this department. Martinez worked under new Raiders strength boss Tom Shaw at the Tom Shaw Performance facility in Orlando, Fla., the past four years.

West Notes: Donald, Raiders, Carter

There are a couple of critical dates coming up in the Aaron Donald saga this week, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk points out. If Donald does not report to the Rams by August 7, he will not earn a year of credit towards free agency, which means that he would be eligible for restricted free agency next offseason, but not unrestricted free agency. However, Florio says that is not a major deterrent for Donald’s camp, as the Rams would either use the franchise tag on Donald — which, of course, they could also do if he became an unrestricted free agent — or apply a first-round restricted free agent tender. If Los Angeles went with the latter option, there would be any number of teams willing to extend a massive offer sheet to Donald and to surrender a first-round pick to the Rams if the Rams elected to not match the offer sheet, so Florio suggests LA would use the franchise tag regardless of whether Donald becomes a UFA or RFA.

The more important date, then, could be August 9, when the Rams play their first preseason game. As we have written previously, Donald could be fined a game check for each preseason game he misses, and between those penalties and the penalties for missing training camp, Donald could be looking at over $3.2MM in fines if he does not show up until the eve of the regular season opener. That reality could make him rethink his holdout, but given a recent report that the standoff could easily drag into September, it appears Donald’s reps are confident that the Rams will waive any penalties when the two sides do finally come to terms (or else that Donald’s contract will be so massive that the lost money won’t really matter).

Now let’s round up a few more notes from the league’s west divisions:

  • Raiders head coach Jon Gruden says his team’s kicking competition is not over, and that either rookie Eddy Pineiro or recent veteran acquisition Mike Nugent could win the job. But Scott Bair of NBCSports.com says Pineiro remains the heavy favorite, and Bair suggests it would be a major surprise if the rookie did not open the season as the team’s kicker.
  • We have not heard anything about a potential suspension for new Raiders receiver Martavis Bryant since June, which is obviously good news for Bryant and the team, but Gruden does not seem impressed with Bryant’s on-field performance thus far. Vic Tafur of The Athletic tweets that Bryant needs to step up his game and get more out of his reps, and Gruden said that the former Steeler needs to “master the offense and be more versatile.” Bryant is eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2019 — assuming he’s not suspended, of course — and even though he is battling for the team’s No. 3 receiver job, his talent suggests he could excel in Oakland’s offense and earn himself a nice payday next year.
  • Broncos safety Jamal Carter, a 2017 UDFA, has been very impressive in this year’s training camp, as Mike Klis of 9News.com writes. Carter appeared in all 16 of the team’s games last season, primarily as a special teams contributor, but he could get more defensive snaps in 2018, especially in sub-packages.
  • The Chargers‘ starting free safety job remains up for grabs, as Eric Williams of ESPN.com tweets. Jahleel Addae, Desmond King, and Jaylen Watkins have all seen action with the starters at that position.
  • We learned earlier today that veteran cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had to cancel his scheduled workout with the Seahawks due to a family matter. There is not yet any word on whether the visit will be rescheduled.
  • The 49ers are growing increasingly concerned about guard Joshua Garnett‘s right knee injury.

Extra Points: Packers, UDFAs, Panthers, T.O.

After having been fired as the Browns head coach back in 2016, Mike Pettine is back in the NFL as the Packers defensive coordinator. While the 51-year-old acknowledged that he’ll appreciate the brief break prior to training camp, he also admitted that he’ll soon be itching to return to the field.

“That will last about a week, and then I’ll start thinking about football,” Pettine told Jason Wilde of SouthernMinn.com. “I have my own list of things to do, but I’ll be smart with it. I’ll do a little bit at a time. But it’s hard to completely detach from it. [But] that’s what’s great about that time — you can get around friends and families and take you away from it. But it’s always there, and by 10-12 days into July, I’ll be ready to start camp.”

Pettine’s defenses have generally been productive, as the coach has had previous success with the Ravens, Jets, and Bills. The Packers are hoping he can turn around a defense that finished 26th in points allowed last season.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFL…

  • NFL.com’s Gil Brandt observes (on Twitter) that there were 32 undrafted rookies to make bonuses of $15K or more. The top earners were Eagles running back Josh Adams, Giants cornerback Grant Haley, and Raiders kicker Eddy Pineiro, with the trio each making $25K. Generally, it’s assumed that the highest-paid undrafted free agents have the best shot of making the regular season roster.
  • The Panthers will not renew the contract of senior executive scout Don Gregory, reports Joe Person (via Twitter). Gregory had previously served as the organization’s college scouting director for more than a decade, but he served in more of a consulting role between Marty Hurney‘s two stints with the team.
  • Terrell Owens, who is set to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, believes he can still play football. Well, the 44-year-old could have his chance…in the Canadian Football League. David William Naylor of TSN tweets that the Edmonton Eskimos have added the receiver to their negotiation list. Teams are allowed to claim exclusive rights on players by placing them on the list, but players can easily be removed at anytime. It’s unlikely that Owens will stay on the list for very long, as the wideout hasn’t played professionally since 2012 (and he hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2010).
  • Speaking of the CFL, former NFL Ricky Stanzi has been released by the Calgary Stampeders (via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com). The 30-year-old had a standout performance during the 2017 Spring League, and he ended up earning a contract with the Canadian team. The 2011 fifth-round pick had stints with the Chiefs, Jaguars, Texans, Giants, and Lions during his NFL career, although he never managed to take the field for a regular season game.

West Notes: Seahawks, Cardinals, Raiders

Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright is entering the final year of his contract and is quietly hoping for an extension.

I want to be here, of course,’’ Wright said (via Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times). “The Seahawks know that. Whatever they want to do, they’ll do. It’s my job to be the best that I could be, to make sure that K.J. and this defense is good. They know what it is and let’s get something done.”

Wright is set to earn $7.2MM this offseason before reaching unrestricted free agency. With his 30th birthday coming on July 23, he recognizes that this could be his last chance at a big payday.

Wright has certainly earned a new contract with his on-field performance in recent years. Last year, he racked up 108 total tackles and an interception as he started in all 15 of his games. Last year, he ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 18 ranked linebacker and has routinely been a top-20 LB per the advanced metrics since becoming a full-time starter in 2012.

Here’s more from the West divisions:

  • Odds are the Cardinals will sign wide receiver Greg Little after minicamp, Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic tweets. Little likely would have signed with the club after his first tryout, but a hamstring injury got in the way. Little, a second-round of the Browns in 2011, spent three seasons in Cleveland before being waived. Since then, he has had stints with the Raiders, Bills, and Bengals. Little, 29, has played in 54 games with 42 starts over the course of his career. His most productive season came as a rookie when he had 61 catches for 709 yards and two scores. He followed that up with 53 catches for 647 yards and four scores as an NFL sophomore.
  • The Raiders‘ kicking competition close between Giorgio Tavecchio and Eddy Piñeiro is extremely close, as Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. Tavecchio stands as the only incumbent specialist left on the Raiders’ 2018 offseason roster after the team parted ways with punter Marquette King, long snapper Jon Condo, and longtime kicker Sebastian Janikowski, but it’s possible that they’ll clean house in that department under new head coach Jon Gruden. “I believe we’ll go in through some of the preseason games for sure and give them both an opportunity to kick in game-like situations,” special teams coach Rich Bisaccia said. “We’ll try to create as many situations in practice as we possibly can and certainly when we get to pads. It’s a process and everything matters. … Right now, they’re nip and tuck.”