For children, summer camp is a place of sunshine and saccharine memories, but it also comes with cuts and broken bones. Professional football teams, it seems, are much the same.
When the Raiders take the practice field for the first time tomorrow afternoon, they will do so short two familiar faces.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Vic Tafur reports that the team plans to cut veteran linebacker Kevin Burnett. The journeyman defender – the Raiders were his fourth team in nine seasons as a pro – appeared in all sixteen games in 2013, racking up 105 tackles (83 solo), 2.5 sacks, and a pick. Burnett is the sixth defensive starter from last season to be jettisoned this offseason. GM Reggie McKenzie cut ties with linemen Lamarr Houston, Justin Hunter, and Vance Walker, as well as cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins earlier in the year.
The news likely bodes ill for Kaelin Burnett, Kevin’s younger brother, whose acquisition was widely reported to be part of the deal bringing Kevin to Oakland last season.
Burnett’s starting weakside role will likely be filled by either Sio Moore, sliding over from the strongside slot he held last season, now now occupied by Khalil Mack, and Miles Burris, a 4th-round selection in McKenzie’s inaugural draft class, who flashed at WILL as a rookie, but was limited by injury to just 42 snaps last season.
The move will clear up $3.375 million in cap space.
The second absentee is less of a surprise. As I noted earlier this week, cornerback DJ Hayden is still healing from the injury he suffered during OTA’s. However, an update from CSN Bay Area’s Scott Bair confirms that the Hayden pessimists were rightly skeptical.
According to Bair, the injury that sidelined Hayden was a stress fracture, which was surgically repaired four weeks ago. The timetable for his return looks to be at least another four weeks. That will bump right up against the deadline to begin the regular season on the PUP list, in which case Hayden could return after the Raiders’ sixth game, meaning that he would be available for the Week 8 contest in Cleveland at the earliest.
Hayden’s absence would constitute a severe blow to the rebuilt secondary. Going into the preseason, the presumption was that newly-signed Tarell Brown would start opposite Hayden, while Brown’s co-refugee from across the Bay, Carlos Rogers,would cover the slot. The shakeup likely leaves Rogers and Brown as the starting outside corners, leaving a woefully thin bench to compete for the third spot. Rookies TJ Carrie and Keith McGill (though, according to Bair, McGill suffered an injury of unknown severity during conditioning tests and may be relegated to the preseason PUP list to begin camp), along with fourth-year man Chimdi Chekwa should be the prime contenders. Last year’s camp stud, UDFA Chance Casey, might also be in the mix.
Should Hayden begin the regular season on the PUP list, the Raiders could look to free agency for a short-term patch (PUP players do not count toward the 53-man roster). There are several known quantities who remain unsigned – Asante Samuel, Dunta Robinson, among others – but unfortunately, for these veterans the quantity appears to be very little. The remaining pickings are slim enough to fit through a cracked locker.
The inevitable sting of disappointment is often easy to forget in the rosy haze of the preseason. Welcome to the 2014 season.