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Las Vegas Raiders roster: 5 intriguing takeaways

Breven Honda

On Tuesday afternoon, the Las Vegas Raiders announced their initial active roster for the 2022 season.

A total of 27 players had to come off the roster, via trade, release or injured reserve, prior to Tuesday’s 4:00 PM ET deadline. Overall, the Raiders released five players, placed tight end Jacob Hollister on season-ending injured reserve and waived 15 players.  

Here are five key moves made for the Raiders as they cut their roster down to 53.

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1. Las Vegas Raiders waive 2021 first-round pick Alex Leatherwood

las vegas raiders roster: alex leatherwood waived
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This is a difficult time for any coach and general manager to let a player go after the work they put in. However, that is the business aspect of sports. One of the many moves general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels made was waiving 2021 first-round pick Alex Leatherwood.

The Alabama alum was primarily playing right tackle during training camp and could not quite find his rhythm, despite finding success last year at right guard. Leatherwood was coming a rookie season where he gained valuable experience by starting every game and moved from right tackle to right guard as last season progressed.

Since 2017, left tackle Kolton Miller is the only Raiders first-round pick to have not been cut nor have their fifth-year option declined on this year’s roster. In addition to Miller, Las Vegas has seven other players on the 53-man roster, including tackles Jermaine Eluemunor, rookie Thayer Munford Jr., Jackson Barton, guards John Simpson, Lester Cotton Sr., rookie guard (and backup center) Dylan Parham and center Andre James.

This is an offensive line looking to take the next step from last year, which includes having to protect quarterback Derek Carr. These moves on Tuesday also come after tackle Brandon Parker was placed on injured reserve over the weekend.

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2. Las Vegas Raiders strike Trayvon Mullen trade with Cardinals

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With the depth the Las Vegas Raiders have in the secondary, Ziegler decided to make a move. Cornerback Trayvon Mullen Jr., who was injured throughout the preseason and returned in the final couple of weeks, was traded down south to Arizona for a conditional seventh-round pick.

Now with Mullen not in the fold a starter, it means Ziegler and McDaniels believes in both Rock Ya-Sin and Anthony Averett to hold down the turf in the secondary. In addition to this, it also opens the door for 2021 fifth rounder Nate Hobbs to have a focal role in the defense, by playing in both nickel and base positions as a cornerback.

Last season, Hobbs recorded 74 combined tackles during the regular season and another eight in the AFC Wild Card Game against Cincinnati.

Related: Las Vegas Raiders as legit NFL Playoff contenders

3. Tyron Johnson makes the roster, Keelan Cole does not

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders Training Camp
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In the passing game, there was a battle for the team’s third receiver between Tyron Johnson and Keelan Cole. Ultimately, it was Johnson who won the job to be behind Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow in the receiving game. In addition to Adams, Renfrow and Johnson, Mack Hollins and DJ Turner were the other two receivers who made the 53-man roster.

Cole, who recorded three receptions on five targets for 44 yards in the Raiders 15-13 win on Aug. 20, was one of the five players who were released. By being released, Cole has the opportunity to freely sign with any team compared to being a player like Leatherwood going through the waiver process.

4. Six rookies and four undrafted rookie free agents make Las Vegas Raiders roster

By moving a piece like Mullen, it opened a spot up for someone else lower on the Las Vegas Raiders roster. Four of the Raiders undrafted free agents made the club on Tuesday, including all six draft picks like Parham.

The quartet of undrafted free agents – linebackers Darien Butler and Luke Materson, safety Isaiah Pola-Mao and cornerback Sam Webb – made the roster after showing solid production in training camp to earn themselves a locker.

Masterson and Butler made their presence felt in a linebackers’ room that will be led by 2021 Pro Bowler Denzel Perryman and second-year player Divine Deablo. Palo-Mao is in a safeties room that consists of former Raiders first-pick Johnathan Abram and 10-year veteran Duron Harmon, who has played previously with McDaniels in New England.

5. Las Vegas Raiders to begin with six running backs

NFL: Hall of Fame Game-Jacksonville Jaguars at Las Vegas Raiders
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Of all the position groups for the Raiders, one of the biggest topics was how many running backs would be on the roster following the deadline.

The running back room, led by Josh Jacobs getting the first touches, will also have rookie Zamir White, Ameer Abdullah, Brandon Bolden and Brittain Brown. Jakob Johnson is also listed under the running backs as he will be the team’s fullback, a role that was previously held by Alec Ingold in years past.

Brown was the leading rusher in the team’s 26-3 preseason victory over New England last week. He totaled 11 carries for 28 yards and a touchdown. He also caught three passes on four targets for 23 yards. The only move involving a running back to not make the roster was Austin Walter, who was waived. Walter is the player McDaniels and Ziegler are hoping can be a practice squad piece if he can clear waivers.

Between now and before the Las Vegas Raiders prepare for their first game in Los Angeles against the Chargers on Sept. 11, expect Ziegler to make a few more moves as the construction of the roster remains in flux.