Tonight marks the end of the preseason as the Raiders welcome the Seahawks to the East Bay. Tonight will also be the final time that 22 players will suit up for the Oakland Raiders. Sure, some will return later this year as injury replacements. Others, like Chris “Baby Howie” Cooper might return again one day down the road. But for many, this will be the final time they’ll ever put on the Silver and Black.
Michael Huff has warned the young players, but there are plenty of veterans that aren’t safe either.
Here are five veteran players that be could finishing out their Raider careers tonight.
Thomas Howard – Hard to believe that both Howard and former middle linebacker Kirk Morrison could both be gone at the start of the 2010 season. Both men were drafted in 2006. Both were starters ever since and now both could be ejected from the East Bay. Morrison was traded in the offseason and Howard could be cut after tonight. Kamerion Wimbley’s arrival has pushed Howard down to the second squad, forcing Thomas to find other ways to contribute. With his blazing speed and amazing athletic ability, you’ve got to believe that John Marshall can find some role for Howard. If not, it could be a new start for Thomas as he’ll be free to find a new home.
Hiram Eugene – Trying to make the final 53 as a defensive back in Oakland is a little like trying to make it big as an actor in Hollywood. Even if you’ve got the talent, you’ve still got to fit the part. To Eugene’s credit, the former undrafted free agent has improved every year, working his way into the role of starting free safety the last two seasons. However, with names like Atkinson, Tatum and Lott setting the tone for Silver and Black safeties, more is expected. Many will remember Eugene for being on the wrong end of a Willis McGahee stiff arm. I’ll remember him for his acrobatic INT in the end zone in Pittsburgh last season – it could be the only pick he ever made as a Raider.
Johnnie Lee Higgins – 2008 must seem like a mirage for JLH. The young speedster had a breakout season just two years ago, announcing his presence as a dynamo in the slot and a weapon in the return game. In 2009, Higgins was a no-show. He never found his place in the passing game and contributed next to nothing as a punt returner. Now, Higgins is at the crossroads with a younger version of himself – Jacoby Ford – poised to take his roster spot. A solid showing on special teams tonight could salvage his chances, but as of now Johnnie Lee is on the outside looking in.
Khalif Barnes – Things have just not gone right for Barnes since he singed with the Raiders last offseason. After breaking his leg in camp, Barnes never got the chance to compete for the job at left tackle. Reluctant to move to the right side, Khalif didn’t fare much better than Cornell Green or Eric Pears last year. This time around, Barnes has seen his snaps with the first team go to Langston Walker at the tackle position. Even though Barnes does play guard as well, there is some young talent ahead of him. Barnes might be facing the reality of seeking new employment in the coming days.
Chris Morris – Morris, much like Khalif Barnes, is stuck in a numbers game. The center/guard has seen his role reduced due to the emergence of rookies Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell. With Veldheer in a fierce battle with Samson Satele for the starting gig at center, Morris is the odd man out. His only hope now is to beat out Barnes for one of the back up jobs at guard. Most likely, Morris will be milling over his free agency options but his experience could prove a valuable asset that keeps him coming back in Silver and Black.