One of the biggest reasons Josh McDaniels took the Las Vegas Raiders head coaching job had to have been Darren Waller. The star tight end is one of the most dynamic weapons in the NFL. After not missing a single game in his first two seasons as a starter, Waller missed six games in 2021. He only caught 55 passes for 665 yards, which was a steep drop off from the 107 catches for 1,196 yards he had in 2020.
With McDaniels in town, Waller could come back in a major way. The New England Patriots loved using tight ends during his time as the offensive coordinator. Rob Gronkowski broke 1,000 receiving yards every season with the team when he played 14 or more games. Waller is ready for the challenge and is changing his approach with the new coaching staff.
“I’m going to use my voice and not just fade in the back because I’m past that,” Waller said on the Pivot Podcast.
“I’m not in that stage in my life anymore and if somebody were to hold me in that place that’s not right. I’m not just a guy that’s trying to keep a job now. Now I’m trying to be the best player that this organization has ever had. … There were some opportunities last year where I could have said more, I could have done this, but I’m going to say it now and let you know that ‘hey exhaust me in every way possible.’”
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Waller Could Want New Contract
When Waller chose to hire Klutch Sports to represent him last year, it was easy to speculate that he was going to be looking for a new contract. The Raiders have him on a steal of a contract that pays him just $7.45 million a year. For reference, San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle is making $15 million a year. After the 2020 season, there were real questions about if Waller was better than Kittle.
He’s going to want that type of money eventually. Perhaps he’s not ready to negotiate after coming off a down year. If he blows up under McDaniels, Waller could end up getting paid more than Kittle. It’s a situation to watch as Klutch Sports doesn’t have a reputation of being team-friendly.
Hard to Imagine Waller Would Holdout
In the NBA, Klutch Sports clients are never afraid to hold out to get what they want. Ben Simmons just missed most of the season to avoid playing with the Philadelphia 76ers. However, the agency is still somewhat new to the NFL so it’s hard to know how they’ll hand things with Waller.
He certainly deserves a pay jump. He’s easily one of the five best tight ends in the NFL and arguably should be mentioned as one of the top three. That said, he’s unlikely to hold out. First off, the Raiders shouldn’t have any problem paying him. Secondly, it doesn’t seem like his style. He’s a hard worker and wants to be with his teammates in training camp. When he starts pushing for a new contract, it’s likely he’ll get what he wants without it being a huge issue.