For a brief moment before the 2022 NFL Draft, it looked like Darren Waller’s future with the Las Vegas Raiders was in question. The Green Bay Packers were trying to make a trade for the Pro Bowl tight end but there wasn’t mutual interest. Head coach Josh McDaniels, owner Mark Davis and quarterback Derek Carr all shut down the rumors and it appears Waller is set to be with the team this season.
Trading the tight end now never really made any sense. He’s on a great contract and the addition of Davante Adams would be a lot less exciting if it didn’t mean he was teaming up with Waller. The two are supposed to help form arguably the best wide receiver-tight end duo in the NFL this season. Over the last couple of seasons, Waller has easily been the Raiders’ best offensive player and he’s seen a lot of targets.
This has led to opposing defenses putting a lot of focus on him when they play Las Vegas. With Adams in town, defenses can no longer focus on trying to take Waller out of the game. The tight end recently had a chance to discuss how the Adams addition will affect his game going forward.
“I feel like, with Davante in the mix, it forces defenses to show their hand,” Waller told Heavy.com at an April 28 event at Allegiant Stadium hosted by USAA and the NFL. “If they’re gonna go to a game and say we’re gonna double-team one person or focus on either him or me – it’s like we have too many other people that can win against unfavorable matchups on the defensive part so if there’s a linebacker in the vicinity of me or Hunter [Renfrow], that’s not good for the defense. It forces them to show what are we going to do today and we have multiple ways to attack it now.”
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Is Waller a Top-3 TE?
After the 2020 season, there was a real argument that Waller was one of the two or three best tight ends in the NFL. He had 107 catches for 1,196 yards and was named to the Pro Bowl. He was quarterback Derek Carr’s weapon of choice and perhaps the most talented offensive player on the Raiders.
Waller followed up his masterful 2020 season with an injury-plagued 2021. He missed six games due to injury and finished with just 665 receiving yards, which was 11th among tight ends. PFF Fantasy Football recently posed the question if Waller is still a top-three tight end in the NFL.
Travis Kelce and George Kittle are widely considered the two best in the NFL but Mark Andrews and Kyle Pitts had very good 2021 seasons. Waller certainly is talented enough to prove that he’s still a top-three tight end this season but he just needs to stay healthy.
2021 Is an Important Year for Waller
Waller isn’t set to make much money this season but still has two years remaining on his deal. However, if he lights up the stat sheet in 2021, he’ll have a lot of leverage to ask for a better deal. He could prove to the Raiders that he’s irreplaceable.
If they don’t want to pay him, he can get traded and demand a massive contract from another team. Regardless, he has a lot of incentive to put together a great season.