BY JOSH DUBOW
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Eighteen years after the Raiders made kicker Sebastian Janikowski a surprise first-round draft pick, his career in Oakland has come to an end.
The team told Janikowski this week that he won’t be brought back when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next month.
“The Raider Nation salutes Sebastian Janikowski as the sun sets on his illustrious career with the Oakland Raiders,” owner Mark Davis said in a statement Thursday. “He joined the team as a surprise first-round pick in the 2000 Draft and finishes his time in Oakland as one of the greatest or perhaps the greatest kicker in pro football history. His powerful left leg produced an NFL-record 55 field goals of 50-or-more yards. The motto ‘Once a Raider, Always a Raider’ has never been more true as his 18-year career makes him the longest-tenured player in Raiders history.”
Davis’ father, Al, made the stunning decision in 2000 to take Janikowski with the 17th overall pick. The only other kicker taken in the first round since the start of the common draft era in 1967 was Steve Little, who went 15th to the Cardinals in 1978.
Janikowski’s successful career made him the Raiders all-time leader in games played (268) and points scored (1,799). His 55 field goals from at least 50 yards are the most in NFL history. The only other player from the 2000 draft still on his original team is Tom Brady, who was picked 199th by New England.
Janikowski, who turns 40 on March 2, missed all of last season with a back injury. His agent, Paul Healy, said in an email that Janikowski is too young to retire.
Janikowski said last spring that he hoped to still be with the Raiders when the team moved to Las Vegas in 2020. But that didn’t happen after the back injury sidelined him before the start of last season and Giorgio Tavecchio took over as kicker.
There was some thought that new coach Jon Gruden might give Janikowski another chance since he was Oakland’s coach when Janikowski was drafted and for his first two seasons. Janikowski is one of five players who were on NFL rosters last season who have played at least one game for Gruden, joining punter Shane Lechler, kicker Matt Bryant, cornerback Aqib Talib and Raiders left tackle Donald Penn.
Janikowski’s departure leaves long snapper Jon Condo as the only player on the Raiders with the team before Al Davis died in October 2011. Condo is eligible to be an unrestricted free agent next month and his long-term status with the franchise is unknown.
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