Raiders roundup

Jay Cutler has officially left the AFC West, clearing room for the Raiders to move up in the division … B.J. Raji reportedly tests positive for an unknown substance … Is Ramses Barden really on Oakland's draft radar? SBI's Michael Wagaman has all the latest on the day's events.

With Jay Cutler now calling Chicago home, making it official that all is dysfunctional in Denver, the NFL's biggest soap opera saga of the offseason is over. Or is it? The Broncos have been a mess ever since owner Pat Bowlen decided to fire Mike Shanahan. Granted, it was a move that warmed the hearts of the Raiders and their fans but the franchise has been spinning its wheels and flinging mud over itself ever since.

First-year head coach Josh McDaniels got his tenure off to a roaring start by openly courting former New England quarterback Matt Cassel even though Cutler was, at the time, still on the Broncos roster. He made a half-hearted attempt to cover it up but that failed. Denver then said it had been unable to reach Cutler, who had stayed away from the Broncos offseason workouts, and made the call to trade him as a result.

Even that backfired.

According to ESPN's Bill Williamson, who is one of only a handful of people whose work I trust at the four-letter network, Cutler's agent said the team had made no such attempts to contact either he or the player until Tuesday morning, two days before the trade went down.

Whatever the case, bet your bottom dollar the rest of the Broncos players are keeping a close eye on the proceedings and can't be liking what they've seen. While Plummer wasn't the most popular player in Denver's locker room, he was nevertheless a Pro Bowl quarterback who was well respected by most of his teammates.

The Raiders are glad to see Cutler go. Though he had only moderate success against them -- he didn't face Oakland at all as a rookie and split the season series against the Raiders in 2007 and ‘08 -- Cutler is nevertheless a Pro Bowl talent who was second in the division only to San Diego's Philip Rivers.

With Cutler gone, Oakland gets to feast on Kyle Orton, though that is probable to change. With two first-round draft picks this year -- one from the Bears in the Cutler trade -- and another pair in 2010, the Broncos can easily package a deal together to move up if they wanted in order to get a QB.

Whatever happens, the outlook for Oakland is a lot brighter than it was 24 hours ago. Again, Cutler wasn't great but Orton? That has five sacks, two picks written all over it.


Sports Illustrated's breaking news that former Boston College star B.J. Raji had tested positive for an unknown substance at the NFL Scouting Combine isn't all that stunning nor is it likely to have a major effect on his draft status.

While exactly what Raji tested positive for is uncertain, my guess is that is probably more along the lines of marijuana rather than steroids. A positive steroid test, one would think, would have been major news long ago and would have been leaked to the media long before now rather than a few weeks before the draft and more than a month after the combine.

It kind of reminds me of in 1995 when Warren Sapp, fresh from a success-filled career at the University of Miami, tested positive for marijuana at the combine. Like Raji, Sapp was considered the best defensive lineman coming out of college and a logical Top 10 pick if not Top 5. Sapp instead slipped to No. 12.

I doubt that will happen with Raji. Times are different than they were 13 years ago and casual use of weed is more predominant not only in the country at large but in professional sports as well. Randy Moss has admitted he smokes marijuana "from time to time" and Dallas Mavericks forward Josh Howard has also been candid about his use of it.

People have also pointed out that Raji missed the entire 2007 season due to academics. But instead of looking at that as a negative, I see it as a positive. He took the time off, got his head back in the books and came back to be eligible and had a phenomenal 2008 campaign.

If it is marijuana that Raji tested positive for, that is more of a judgment issue than it is performance. Whoever drafts him will have to know that he comes into the league likely already in step one of the NFL's substance abuse policy and it will probably deter some teams but not most. The Raiders shouldn't shy away if he's still on the board when their pick comes up.


While most scouts were checking out quarterback Mark Sanchez during USC's recent Pro Day, the Raiders apparently took a great interest in Cal Poly wide receiver Ramses Barden, who is considered the best small school prospect coming out this season by most draft experts.

At 6-6 and almost 230 pounds, Barden is a physical specimen who was projected as a fifth-round draft pick in 2008 when he considered declaring for the draft as a junior. Instead, he returned to Cal Poly for another year and put up his second consecutive 1,200-yard season. He caught 36 TDs over the past two years, 50 in his career.

Here's what's Chris Steuber has to say about Barden:

"(He) is a physical specimen who has tremendous size and the ability to be dominant. He gets off the line well and embraces physical play. He's not a burner, but is deceptively fast with his long strides. He has strong hands and is dangerous after the catch. He's a redzone threat who elevates over most defenders and hauls in tough catches. He's an outstanding blocker and will help in the run game."

But that doesn't mean the Raiders will use their second-round pick on Barden, as some have suggested. He's still seen as a likely third-rounder and Oakland may not have a pressing need for a wide receiver if Davis and head coach Tom Cable decide to go with Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin with their first pick. If they go with Raji, there's still no guarantee they'd go after Barden with the second pick.

The Raiders had hoped to keep Barden a secret but in the world of the internet, that's just too difficult to do anymore. Barden, according to one league source, has drawn a lot of attention from several other teams.


Gotta throw this in: Love the signing of defensive tackle Ryan Boschetti. He hasn't put up great numbers and probably never will, but what the guy has is a motor that won't stop and that's something you can never teach.

On a line that has Tommy Kelly and Terdell Sands, both of whom are coming off sub-par seasons, having a player like Boschetti around to push them can only help.

John Keim, who covered Boschetti for the DC Examiner, sent me this review of Boschetti: "A real good guy, but would always make the Redskins roster because of his effort. He's the supreme effort guy and is constantly talking to guys coming off the field and trying to get better. Skins always said he was like a termite, or something like that, because they could never kill him. He went into camp with no one expecting him to make it and he somehow would. Not the most talented, but in the right place. Had some real good preseason games last year. Always enjoyed talking to him."

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