The first two big-name roster casualties in the Raiders offseason appear to be safety Tyvon Branch and defensive end LaMarr Woodley.
Branch showed himself to be a tough tackler during his first four seasons, and was rewarded after the 2012 season with a fat $26.6M/$10M guaranteed contract. Since that time he had only managed to play five games, with recurring injuries hampering his ability to get on the field. Branch also had a large ($9.657M) cap number.
Woodley came to the Raiders as a free agent last offseason, afte being cut by Pittsburgh. He has was given a 2-year/$12M contract, and started six games, racking up five total tackles (three solo) before getting injured. It should be noted that Woodley’s best years with the Steelers were in more of a linebacker role, but for some reason former Raiders DC Jason Tarver decided to deploy Woodley as a down lineman.
Naturally, many fans have asked about Maurice Jones-Drew’s continued status with the Raiders, and new head coach Jack Del Rio(who coached MJD in his most productive years with the Jaguars) has mentioned it at press conferences.
While it is important to determine whether Jones-Drew is still able to contribute significantly, it’s also important (and Del Rio is already addressing it) to recognize that the offensive line was horrible at creating running lanes for MJD and Darren McFadden. And while former OC Greg Olson probably did what he could with what he had, a real problem is that MJD and DMac are both one-cut-and-go type runners, and Olson for some reason insisted on plowing them up the middle as power runners, behind a line that could not reliably function as a true power line.
All that is to say that while Jones-Drew may be done, he might also be rejuvenated after an off year (he had only 43 carries for 96 yards), if given a competent run-blocking line. It would not cost the Raiders very much to find out, and use MJD (and possibly even McFadden as well) to complement Latavius Murray as he develops.
Unless Marshawn Lynch suddenly becomes available at a reasonable price, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Raiders’ running back corps remain largely intact. They might let DMac test the free agency waters again, and someone (probably Dallas or Indy) might snap him up, and Oakland can grab one with a mid-round draft pick.
But unless the wheels have visibly fallen off, I see MJD staying at least into camp or preseason. He just doesn’t cost them enough to worry about, and could have some real upside behind a better line and better play-calling.