The Raiders parted with two prominent players from last year’s team Monday, releasing cornerback Sean Smith and right tackle Marshall Newhouse.
By releasing Smith, who played in 14 games last season with seven starts, the Raiders clear $8.5 million in 2018 salary-cap space and shed a player mired in legal issues.
Smith was arrested Aug. 17 for allegedly assaulting his sister’s then-boyfriend, Christopher Woods, on July 4 in Pasadena. Smith was charged with assault by means of force to produce great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury. His next appearance in Los Angeles County Superior Court was to occur Tuesday.
The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that Smith is expected to plead guilty to a felony count of assault with great bodily injury, and that he will be sentenced to one year in jail and five years of probation as part of his plea agreement.
On the field, Smith’s inconsistent play last season, combined with his 2018 salary not being guaranteed, likely contributed to his release.
The move underscores the Raiders’ needs at cornerback. Their only corners under contract from last year are 2017 first-round pick Gareon Conley (who played in just two games because of a shin injury), Dexter McDonald and Antonio Hamilton. T.J. Carrie, who started all 16 games in 2017, is set to become a free agent.
The Raiders had about $15.8 million in cap space as of Friday, according to overthecap.com. In addition to Smith’s number, they cleared another $2.25 million in cap room Monday by cutting Newhouse. However, the Raiders also announced the signing of defensive tackle Justin Ellis to a new three-year deal that will count against the cap number.
Newhouse started 14 games in his only season with the Raiders. The Raiders now must fill a key position on offense in addition to addressing several defensive needs, but new head coach Jon Gruden clearly was not impressed by what he saw from Newhouse last season.
At the recent NFL scouting combine, Gruden said the Raiders last season “had some inconsistency at right tackle, obviously. Newhouse, he had his moments where he played well. He had some moments where he obviously struggled.”
Overall, the offensive line was expected to be a strength for the Raiders but struggled at times. Gruden has hired former Raiders head coach and Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable to coach the unit. The rest of the starting line is expected to return. Center Rodney Hudson, left guard Kelechi Osemele and left tackle Donald Penn were all named to the Pro Bowl last season. Right guard Gabe Jackson signed a five-year extension with the Raiders in June.
Also on Monday, the Raiders announced the signing of Griff Whalen, a receiver and returner from Stanford who appeared in two games last season for the Ravens.
Whalen, 28, has played in 43 career games — also spending time with the Chargers and Colts — and has 51 catches for 532 yards. He has averaged 24.2 yards on 29 kick returns and 8 yards on 47 punt returns in his career. The Raiders might have Whalen challenge for the job on punt returns; Jalen Richard struggled with ball security last season.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal also reported Monday that the Raiders had placed a one-year tender on kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, an exclusive-rights free agent. The move was expected after the Raiders announced they were not bringing back Sebastian Janikowski, the franchise’s leader in points and games played.
Matt Kawahara is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @matthewkawahara