In general manager Dave Ziegler’s first year with the Las Vegas Raiders, he made some miscalculations. The biggest was perhaps trading Yannick Ngakoue to the Indianapolis Colts and then signing Chandler Jones to a three-year contract worth $51 million. Ngakoue led the Raiders with 10.0 sacks in 2021 but Jones was considered the better fit in Patrick Graham’s defense.
Jones is a four-time Pro Bowler and one of the best pass rushers of the past decade but did not have much success in his first in Las Vegas. He had 4.5 sacks in 15 games while Ngakoue had 9.5. $51 million is a lot to pay for a defensive end who doesn’t get after the quarterback. He would leave a $25.6 dead money charge if the Raiders cut him this year so they’re stuck with him for now.
In a recent mock draft, Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal projected the team to draft Texas Tech defensive end Tyree Wilson with the No. 7 pick. The Raiders seem unlikely to draft a defensive end with such a high pick considering how much money they have tied into Jones and Maxx Crosby. However, Bonsignore made the decision because he thinks the Raiders will cut their losses on Jones after the 2023 season.
Jones Has Small Dead Money Hit After 2023
Even if Jones does stay with the Raiders past 2023, they’ll have to be a contract restructure. Unless he returns to Pro Bowl form, there’s no reason to pay big money to an aging defensive end who can’t consistently rush the passer anymore. The most likely outcome is that the Raiders cut him outright after the season.
According to Spotrac, Las Vegas would only get hit with a $7.2 million dead cap hit if they cut him following the 2023 season. That’s not a big price to pay to get off a bad contract. Now, dead money isn’t something the Raiders want. In a perfect world, Jones bounces back in 2023 and makes the case he should stick around until 2024. He’ll need a very good season to convince the Raiders to justify keeping him at a $19.4 million cap hit in 2024.
Why Should Raiders Target Wilson With 1st-Round Pick?
The Raiders have consistently been one of the worst pass rushing teams in the NFL for several seasons. This is despite the fact that they have a 25-year-old All-Pro defensive end in Maxx Crosby. Pairing Crosby with a younger defensive end could solve the team’s pass rushing issues for years to come. Bonsignore explained why he thinks the Raiders should draft Wilson with their first-round pick:
The Raiders have to be flexible here, as the board figures to be frenzied on draft day with teams jockeying for position to grab their targets. That could involve the Raiders, who are well-positioned to trade up if they fall in love with a quarterback prospect, such as C.J. Stroud or Will Levis, or even fall back a few spots to secure Florida’s Anthony Richardson. Any number of scenarios could emerge, and it behooves the Raiders to be open-minded. At the end of the day, though, they hold firm and draft the best edge rusher in the draft. At 6 feet, 6 inches and blessed with an incredible burst, Wilson will make an immediate impact. But it’s his upside that makes him such an alluring pick as the Raiders rebuild their defense.