Down a linebacker after Denzel Perryman suffered a concussion on Sunday, the Raiders added a potential short-term replacement who also could yield big-time future dividends.
But for now, veteran linebacker Blake Martinez will begin his Raiders journey on their practice squad. The Raiders made the move official on Tuesday, using the NFL’s relatively new veteran provision in order to add Martinez.
The Raiders also added to the practice squad tackle Jackson Barton, who they released last week from the 53-man roster, and worked out veteran wide receiver Albert Wilson.
In addition, center Billy Price, who was on the Raiders’ practice squad, was signed by the Cardinals.
A six-year veteran, Martinez played the last two seasons with the Giants under current Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Martinez suffered a knee injury that cut down his 2021 season to just three games.
“He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever been around,” said Graham, who also coached Martinez when both were in Green Bay.
When healthy Martinez is a tackling machine. He has four seasons with 145 or more tackles, including 155 with the Packers in 2019.
Depending on Perryman’s status for Monday’s game in Kansas City against the Chiefs, Martinez could be part of the replacement solution.
“He did a great job for me in terms of running the defense, echoing the message from the coaching staff,” Graham said. “And I just got a lot of respect for him. I got a lot of respect for him as a player, but more importantly as a man. Just to see his growth as he’s gotten older.”
Prior to the 2020 season, teams could only utilize their 10 practice-squad roster spots on players with three or fewer years of NFL service. But in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL expanded that roster from 10 to 16, with up to six spots available for players with unlimited NFL experience.
The NFL kept that provision intact over the last two seasons, opening up a new avenue for teams to supplement their teams with veterans who work and practice on a daily basis with rest of the club.
The advantages are numerous. “One, you have more depth at practice,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said.
More importantly, it allows team to more readily reach down to their practice squad to pull up capable veterans to fill in for injured players or, in some cases, beat out players on the main roster.
And that includes the ability to elevate two players from the practice squad to the active roster each Sunday. Thus increasing the number of players teams can choose for their 46- or 48-player game-day roster from 53 to 55.
“It brings a lot more people into the conversation,” said McDaniel. “It gives a lot more people opportunity to continue to perform at practice and improve.”
It also raises the level of competition, as practice squad players can push for jobs on the 53-man roster.
That was the case two weeks ago when veteran offensive lineman Alex Bars, who did not make the club out of training camp and was subsequently signed to the practice squad, beat out starter John Simpson for the left guard position.
Bars was signed last week to the regular roster and for now is part of the Raiders’ starting offensive line.
The same was true for veteran safety Matthias Farley, who worked his way up from the practice squad to the 53-man roster two weeks ago. And last week, veteran cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman was called up from the practice squad to the active roster when Rock Ya-Sin was injured.
“For us, we’ve tried to always set aside time in every practice for the players in that category to continue to ascend like it’s like a continuation of training camp,” McDaniels said. “Because to me at some point they’re all going to have a chance to come up. We feel good about the group we have.”
■ Who: Raiders at Chiefs
■ When: 5:15 p.m. Monday
■ Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City
■ TV: ESPN
■ Radio: KRLV-AM (920), KOMP-FM (92.3)
■ Line: Chiefs -6.5 total 51.5