ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Raiders placed defensive tackle Justin Ellis on season-ending injured reserve with a knee injury Saturday and cut two undrafted players who had shined in the preseason as they reduced their roster to the 53-player limit.
Ellis had been dealing with the injury for much of camp and never was able to get healthy enough for coach Jon Gruden to believe he could contribute this season on the defense.
Ellis, a fourth-round pick in 2014, received a three-year, $13.5 million contract extension last offseason after playing 60 games his first four years as an effective run stuffer in the middle.
Ellis then hurt his foot in the season opener last year and played just six games and now will miss the entire 2019 season after the Raiders decided not to keep him on the initial roster, which would have allowed him to return after at least eight weeks.
"I think with Coach, the big thing is availability," general manager Mike Mayock said. "Since he's been here, Justin's been hurt — to no fault of his own — I mean it's a legitimate football injury. It's been really hard to evaluate him because of that. I think, again, as we go ahead philosophically with younger, more athletic, consistent, available players, we felt like that was a roster spot we could use in a different direction."
Undrafted rookie defensive tackle Anthony Rush appeared to have a chance to fill that role with a strong preseason that included making four tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage in his first game.
But the Raiders instead went with more experience at the position with recently signed Corey Liuget, Johnathan Hankins and second-year players Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall getting the nod.
"At the end of the day, he's very raw," Mayock said of Rush. "He's a guy that I think has a future in the league, but for us today, it was not his day."
Receiver Keelan Doss, another undrafted rookie who shined at times in the preseason, also was cut as the Raiders went with more veterans such as JJ Nelson and Ryan Grant at the position.
The move to shut down Ellis for the season leaves just two players on the roster from the 2012-15 draft classes with starting quarterback Derek Carr and guard Gabe Jackson, who will miss the first month with a knee injury.
The Raiders did keep four undrafted free agents with punter A.J. Cole, offensive lineman Andre James, fullback Alec Ingold and cornerback Keisean Nixon all making the roster. Oakland had kept more than two undrafted rookies on the initial roster just once in the past seven seasons with four also making it in 2014.
Among the other notable cuts were last year's starting fullback Keith Smith, 2018 fourth-round cornerback Nick Nelson and special teams standout linebacker Kyle Wilber.
The other players cut on Saturday were receivers Marcell Ateman, Rico Gafford, Keon Hatcher and De'Mornay Pierson-El; linebackers Jason Cabinda, Te'Von Coney and Koa Farmer; offensive linemen Lester Cotton Sr., Denver Kirkland, Tyler Roemer and Justin Murray; defensive lineman Quinton Bell; running back James Butler; and cornerback Dylan Mabin.
Tight end Paul Butler was waived with an injury designation and guard Richie Incognito and cornerback Nevin Lawson were placed on the suspended list.
More moves could be coming in the next few days as Oakland kept 11 defensive backs and only four linebackers on the roster. Mayock pointed out that the Raiders have more than 30 players on the roster who weren't there to start last season as part of an overhaul after a 4-12 record last year.
"I think we're excited because we kind of feel like what we hoped to accomplish eight months ago when Jon and I sat down together and talked about it was to get younger, more athletic and the right kind of mentality in this building," Mayock said. "We think we've been pretty consistent with that and we're real excited about the guys on this roster."
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