ALAMEDA, Calif. — After making several big-ticket additions to start free agency, the Oakland Raiders are now making some cuts.
The Raiders released 2018 leading wide receiver Jordy Nelson and backup quarterback AJ McCarron on Thursday to create salary cap space after going on a spending spree earlier this week.
The moves save more than $8.5 million for the upcoming season after the Raiders committed more than $50 million in salary cap space to acquire receiver Antonio Brown, tackle Trent Brown, safety Lamarcus Joyner and receiver Tyrell Williams.
Nelson signed a $14.2 million, two-year deal last March with the Raiders and had 63 catches for 739 yards in his one season in Oakland. The Raiders turned his $3.6 million roster bonus for 2019 into a signing bonus late last season, which leaves them with $1.8 million in dead money this year.
Coach Jon Gruden had planned to keep Nelson before plans changed when Brown became available from Pittsburgh last weekend.
The Raiders traded a 2019 fifth-round pick to Buffalo last year to acquire McCarron as the backup to Derek Carr. McCarron appeared in just two games with three passes before the team decided to go in another direction.
The move leaves Nathan Peterman as the only backup on the roster. Peterman was fifth-round pick by Buffalo in 2017 but was cut last season after beginning the year as the starter. He is 68 for 130 in his career for 548 yards, three TDs, 12 interceptions and a 32.5 passer rating in his career.
The Raiders also signed defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins to a two-year contract to return to Oakland and formally announced the deal with Joyner that was agreed to earlier this week.
Hankins spent his first four seasons with the Giants and then played for Indianapolis in 2017 before joining the Raiders last season. He had 36 tackles and two fumble recoveries last season for Oakland and will be part of a rotation at defensive tackle with second-year players Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall, as well as Justin Ellis.
"I’m definitely honoured to be here for another two more years, be a part of the movement going forward," Hankins said. "It’s exciting seeing everybody that they’ve been signing. I just can’t wait to get back to work and prove everybody wrong and let them know that the Raiders are back."
Joyner is the most notable addition so far for a defence that ranked last in the NFL in yards allowed per play (6.27) and points allowed per game (29.2) last season.
The Raiders coveted Joyner for his versatility; he had experience playing cornerback, in the slot and safety in five seasons with the Rams. He was at his best after moving exclusively to free safety the past two seasons under co-ordinator Wade Phillips but said he’s ready to play in the slot if needed for Oakland.
Joyner looks forward to come in on the ground floor of a rebuild after helping Florida State rebound from a team that struggled in coach Bobby Bowden’s final seasons before he arrived and then won a national championship under Jimbo Fisher in his senior season.
"When I entered both organizations, they weren’t doing too well," he said. "Even my years with the Rams, we started off slow, but they got the right guys in. I feel like I’m one of the first stepping stones, one of those first milestones for Coach Gruden to bring the right guys in and change this place around."