It hasn’t been a great offseason for Alex Leatherwood. The 2021 first-round pick of the Las Vegas Raiders had a disastrous rookie season and doesn’t appear poised to have a much better sophomore year. New head coach Josh McDaniels has given him plenty of chances to take first-team reps in training camp but he hasn’t taken advantage of it.
Leatherwood appears to be slipping on the depth chart as veteran offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor has been taking first-team snaps recently. At this point, it’s fair to question if Leatherwood can even be a capable backup. The team did just recently use a first-round pick on him but that was under the former head coach and general manager. Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus is now reporting that it’s not off the table that the young offensive lineman gets cut or traded before the season starts:
We said potential surprise trade or cut candidates, right? It ultimately would be surprising to see Las Vegas part ways with Leatherwood so early into his NFL career, but one league source believes it’s at least a possibility.
Leatherwood was the 17th overall pick last spring, but he was taken by former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock. Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler, respectively, are in those roles now, and they’re not tied to past selections from the former brain trust.
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Could Raiders Even Find a Trade Partner for Leatherwood?
Leatherwood hasn’t shown the Raiders much but he’s still a young player. It seems premature to move on from a former first-round pick so quickly. That said, it’s unclear just how low the new Raiders coaching staff is on him. If they think that he’s a lost cause, they might as well try to get something for him now before he loses all value. Kyed believes that a move to guard might be necessary for his career to work:
Leatherwood isn’t currently starting for the Raiders in training camp, and he was actually benched during Las Vegas’ preseason game against the Dolphins. He’s played into the second half of each of the Raiders’ past two preseason games, and perhaps there could still be a team interested enough to trade for him in the second year of his rookie contract.
He’d come with fully guaranteed salaries in 2022 ($1.3M), 2023 ($2M) and 2024 ($2.6M), plus a decision on whether to pick up a fifth-year option in 2025.
Leatherwood tested very well coming out of Alabama, and a permanent move to guard doesn’t seem out of the question, though he did struggle at the position last year, earning a 54.0 PFF grade. He put together a worse 30.7 PFF grade at tackle last season as a rookie.
Should Raiders Trade Leatherwood?
The problem with any possible trade for Leatherwood is that the Raiders would be getting pennies on the dollar. No team is giving Las Vegas more than a fourth-round pick for the offensive line. Teams might not even be willing to give up a fourth-round pick that isn’t conditional.
Trading Leatherwood right now doesn’t make a ton of sense for the Raiders. If anything, they should move him to guard and see if he can be a decent player there. He’ll likely never be a great right tackle but he could be a starting guard. The Raiders aren’t exactly set at either guard spot so it would be worth it to at least try him out there.
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Just watching him last night against the Patriots, he looks clumsy and slow. I don’t think he has that natural athletic ability or the capacity to listen to his coaches and improve his technique. Big and intimidating might work in college but the NFL is fast and skill level matters. It’s to bad but AL just doesn’t have it.