Oakland Raiders

Why the Raiders are saying goodbye to another high-profile player this season

The Raiders have released defensive end Bruce Irvin, according to a team source, The Mercury News of San Jose reported Saturday.
The Raiders have released defensive end Bruce Irvin, according to a team source, The Mercury News of San Jose reported Saturday. AP

Defensive end Bruce Irvin, whose playing time has decreased dramatically in the past two games, has been released by the Raiders, according to a team source.

The news was first reported by The Athletic.

Irvin played just nine snaps in a 34-3 loss to the 49ers on Thursday night. Counted upon to provide an outside pass rush for the Raiders, especially after the trade of Khalil Mack, Irvin has a team-high three sacks but has been largely ineffective on a team with the NFL’s worst pass rush.

The Raiders have only seven sacks all season, one less than they gave up in the loss to the 49ers.

Irvin becomes the third high-profile player to depart since the 53-man roster was finalized on Sept. 2. Mack was dealt to the Chicago Bears in a package that included two first-round draft picks, while wide receiver Amari Cooper was shipped to Dallas for a first-round pick.

The Raiders will get nothing in return for Irvin, however, and in fact could owe him more than $3.7 million over the last eight games of the season — the remaining portion of his scheduled salary of $8 million. Irvin’s salary was guaranteed as a vested veteran when he was on the Week 1 roster. If claimed on waivers, the remainder of Irvin’s salary will be paid by his new team.

Considering the Raiders reportedly attempted to trade Irvin before the NFL trading deadline, it’s unlikely he’d be claimed on waivers. The likely scenario is Irvin clearing waivers and signing with another team as a free agent at a lesser salary.

Irvin was scheduled to make $9 million in 2019, a figure that will come off the Raiders’ payroll and salary cap.

An outside linebacker for the first six seasons of his career, Irvin was moved to end in the offseason by coach Jon Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther with the thinking he’d be exclusively a pass rusher opposite Mack rather than having responsibilities in pass coverage.

Last season, with Mack usually on the opposite the side, Irvin had a eight sacks, which tied his career high, and his goal this season was to reach double figures for the first time.

Perhaps no player was more affected by Mack’s absence. With opposing lines free of concern about Mack’s influence, Irvin got more attention as the Raiders’ top remaining outside pass rusher. Despite Irvin’s three sacks, he for the most part has been a non-factor on a poor defense and has only six tackles this season.

Asked about Irvin’s decrease in playing time Friday, Gruden said Irvin hasn’t played as much the past two games because the Raiders weren’t playing a lot of nickel defense because of down and distance and that Irvin’s job was to rush the passer.

“We weren’t in our nickel defense very much,” Gruden said. “Remember we’re a 4-3 team, we’re not a 3-4. So in the base defense, sometimes he doesn’t fit the role we need done. No disrespect to Bruce. He’s an edge rusher. We haven’t had a lead. We haven’t had the opposition behind in the chains a lot. So his role has been reduced.

“I know he’s frustrated. I’m frustrated. We’ll try to solve that as soon as possible. He’s a good player.”

According to analytics sites, the Raiders were in a nickel defense 23 times, meaning 14 times in pass rush situations Irvin was off the field.

Through the first six games of the season, Irvin had a low of 26 snaps in Week 3 against Miami with a high of 49 in Week 2. His playing time dropped off in Week 8 against Indianapolis with 24 snaps and he had only nine snaps against the 49ers.

Irvin, 31, is the second veteran departure in two weeks, following the midseason retirement of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.