Raiders cut rusher Irvin as salary purge con­tin­ues

San Francisco Chronicle - Late Edition (Sunday) - - PAGE 2 - By Matt Kawa­hara Matt Kawa­hara is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writer. Email: mkawa­hara@ sfchron­i­cle.com Twit­ter: @matthewkawa­hara

The Raiders re­leased Bruce Irvin, their sacks leader and high­est-paid de­fen­sive player this sea­son, on Satur­day.

“We would like to thank Bruce Irvin for his years of ser­vice to the Oak­land Raiders and we wish him the best,” gen­eral man­ager Reg­gie McKenzie said in a state­ment.

Irvin posted a brief note on Twit­ter thank­ing Raiders owner Mark Davis, McKenzie, head coach Jon Gru­den and the Raiders for his time with the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“I will al­ways cher­ish my ex­pe­ri­ence with the Oak­land Raiders,” Irvin wrote. “As the sea­sons change, so do our roles and I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing my jour­ney with the NFL!”

Irvin, 31, was named a team co-cap­tain to start the sea­son but saw his role shrink dra­mat­i­cally in re­cent weeks. Irvin played just nine de­fen­sive snaps in the Raiders’ 34-3 loss to the 49ers on Thurs­day night.

Last sea­son, Khalil Mack and Irvin formed one of the NFL’s more pro­duc­tive pass­rush­ing duos, com­bin­ing for 18.5 sacks. Af­ter Mack was traded to the Bears on Sept. 1, Irvin, in a new role as an edge-rush­ing de­fen­sive end, was ex­pected to head up the Raiders’ pass rush.

Irvin had three sacks in eight games for a Raiders de­fense that ranks last in the NFL with seven sacks, and he to­taled just six tack­les while play­ing 48 per­cent of the team’s de­fen­sive snaps.

On Fri­day, head coach Jon Gru­den said Irvin’s nine snaps against the 49ers re­flected his play­ing only in cer­tain per­son­nel group­ings.

“We’re a 4-3 team, we’re not a 3-4,” Gru­den said. “In the base de­fense, some­times he doesn’t fit the role that we need done. No dis­re­spect to Bruce, but he’s an edge rusher. We haven’t had a lead. We haven’t had the op­po­si­tion be­hind the chains a lot. So his role has been re­duced. And I know he’s frus­trated. I’m frus­trated. And we’ll try to solve that as soon as pos­si­ble. He’s a good player.”

One of six co-cap­tains named be­fore the sea­son, Irvin is the sec­ond to depart fol­low­ing Der­rick John­son, who was re­leased Oct. 16. Irvin’s exit also fol­lows that of vet­eran cor­ner­back Do­minique Rodgers-Cro­mar­tie, who an­nounced his re­tire­ment last week.

Hav­ing al­ready traded Mack and re­ceiver Amari Cooper in deals that net­ted three firstround draft picks over the next two years, the Raiders were re­port­edly shop­ping Irvin be­fore the Oct. 30 trade dead­line but did not ex­e­cute a deal.

Irvin is guar­an­teed his base salary of $8 mil­lion this sea­son, the re­main­der of which the Raiders will owe him un­less Irvin, a vested vet­eran, is claimed off waivers by an­other team. If not claimed, Irvin would be­come a free agent. The Raiders do clear $9.25 mil­lion in salary cap space next sea­son that would have gone to Irvin, ac­cord­ing to over­the­cap.com.

Ac­cord­ing to spo­trac.com, by trad­ing Mack and Cooper and part­ing with Irvin, the Raiders have cleared about $45 mil­lion in salary cap space in 2019.

Irvin signed a four-year deal with the Raiders in 2016 af­ter play­ing his first four sea­sons with the Sea­hawks. In 40 reg­u­lar-sea­son games with Oak­land, Irvin had 18 sacks and 11 forced fum­bles.

Moved from out­side line­backer to a pri­mar­ily pass­rush­ing role this sea­son — a move that he said felt “more nat­u­ral” — Irvin had a goal of dou­ble-digit sacks for the first time in his ca­reer. But he was on the field for fewer than half the de­fen­sive snaps in four of eight games, in­clud­ing a to­tal of 33 snaps in the past two games.

Two of three rookie de­fen­sive line­men the Raiders se­lected in April, Mau­rice Hurst and Ar­den Key, had played more snaps this sea­son than Irvin. With Irvin gone, Hurst is the lone Raiders player with mul­ti­ple sacks — two.

D. Ross Cameron / As­so­ci­ated Press

Bruce Irvin had played in al­most half of the Raiders’ de­fen­sive snaps this sea­son. He had six tack­les.

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