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Raiders make surprise move, cut kicker Giorgio Tavecchio

Updated August 3, 2018 - 9:00 pm

NAPA, Calif. — Giorgio Tavecchio was perfect Friday morning when the Raiders held their daily field-goal set, converting all six attempts from 39 to 51 yards.

After practice, he learned the news.

It wasn’t enough.

Tavecchio and Eddy Pineiro began in May and continued in training camp a battle for the Raiders’ kicker job. Their competition was expected to continue into the preseason. It won’t, a source said Friday evening, as Tavecchio has been notified he’s been waived, and veteran Mike Nugent is being signed in his place.

There are a number of layers to this decision.

First, it completes a tidal overhaul on special teams this offseason. The Raiders have a new coordinator in Rich Bisaccia. They have a new punter in rookie Johnny Townsend. They have a new long snapper, Andrew DePaola. And now, after Tavecchio was the successor in 2017 to Sebastian Janikowski’s storied 17-year run, they will have their third kicker in three years.

Second, the competition is over for Tavecchio. It’s not for Pineiro.

The Raiders are believed to remain high on their 22-year-old rookie. Surprised he went undrafted in April, they demonstrated the gravity of their interest and seriousness of their opportunity available when including a hefty $25,000 signing bonus in his contract.

Even so, he will have to outshine Nugent.

Nugent, like Pineiro, is right-footed. This component factored heavily into the team’s decision-making. For months, the Raiders have demanded that rookie punter Johnny Townsend, their holder and Pineiro’s former teammate at Florida, alternate between holding for lefty Tavecchio and righty Pineiro.

This daily dance now ends.

Nugent, 36, kicked for Bisaccia last year with the Dallas Cowboys, converting seven of nine field goals. He also briefly did for Bisaccia in 2009 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Nugent made a forgettable two of six attempts in that chance, a blip to a solid career that features an 81 percent conversion rate.

Pineiro is the clear favorite in the coming weeks. The Raiders hope he can outkick Nugent and lay claim to the position for years to come.

Regardless, by cutting Tavecchio, the team knows 2018 will start on a right foot.

Tavecchio waited his turn to be an NFL kicker. A Milan, Italy, native, he went to high school in nearby Moraga, California. After college at California, he partook in five different NFL training camps without a regular-season kick to show for it.

Finally, in his sixth year, his latest and best Raiders camp coincided with a back injury to Janikowski. He was named his successor. In Week 1, Tavecchio made four field goals. Two were from 52 yards. At age 27, Tavecchio became the first kicker in league history to convert multiple 50-yarders in his career debut.

It was a storybook start.

The finish to 2017, however, was uneven, and he ended 16 of 21 on field goals overall. That was enough for the Raiders to start the offseason and training camp open to competition.

And so it went Friday for Tavecchio, however perfect a morning it was.

More Raiders: Follow all of our Raiders coverage online at reviewjournal.com/Raiders and @NFLinVegas on Twitter.

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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