Last offseason, the Las Vegas Raiders worked hard to make fans happy. The team added Davante Adams and Chandler Jones while giving extensions to Derek Carr, Maxx Crosby, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow. A year later, general manager Dave Ziegler is quickly undoing many of the things he did last year.
According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the Raiders have traded Waller to the New York Giants.
All the Raiders are getting for the Pro Bowl tight end is a third-round draft pick, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
This comes less than a year after the team gave Waller a three-year contract extension worth $51 million. He had a down year in 2022 and missed eight games due to injury. Waller was a leader and beloved teammate so there are some players who aren’t happy. Running back Josh Jacobs was clearly displeased with the news as he had an NSFW reaction to the news on his verified Twitter account.
Jacobs was hit with the franchise tag recently and hasn’t signed a long-term contract with the Raiders yet. He might be feeling less enthused about staying with the team long-term after seeing how they traded away Waller.
Why Did the Raiders Make This Trade?
On the surface, this trade makes little sense for the Raiders. When healthy, Waller is a top-three tight end and one of the most dynamic weapons in the NFL. He has been banged up the last two seasons but didn’t miss a single game during his first three seasons with the Raiders.
Now, if the team was able to get a second-round pick or better for Waller, then the trade was justifiable. Vic Tafur of The Atheltic previously reported that the Green Bay Packers offered a second-round pick for the tight end during the 2022 season but Las Vegas turned them down. Waiting until the offseason when Waller’s value is at an all-time low makes very little sense. A third-round pick isn’t going to move the needle for this team. While the Raiders aren’t going to say that they’re rebuilding, this trade and the previous decision to cut Carr shows that the team isn’t in a rush to win a lot of games.
Raiders Now Have a Need at TE
Another reason why this trade doesn’t make sense for the Raiders is the fact that they don’t have a capable replacement for Waller on the roster. The team currently only has Jesper Horsted and Cole Fotheringham under contract. The two have combined for 13 catches over their careers. With Waller gone, tight end is now one of the biggest needs on the roster. It would be one thing to trade the star tight end if there was an exciting young player waiting in the wings but that is not the case.
Foster Moreau is a free agent and could be re-signed. However, his ceiling is limited and he didn’t make many plays last season when Waller was injured. The draft is deep with tight end talent so the Raiders will almost certainly come out with a tight end but it’s going to be difficult to replace Waller. Ziegler’s plan is unclear but the Raiders have to hope he has one or it will be another few years of mediocrity for the struggling franchise.