Tomorrow marks the NFL’s 2013 Trade Deadline, which means it is time to discuss a bunch of random talking points that likely have no chance of happening. For the Oakland Raiders this means talking about Darren McFadden as the calls for general manager Reggie McKenzie have came from a pocket of Raider fans and his name has been thrown around in rumors over the past week as NFL insiders attempt to drum out interest for the least active trade deadline in major sports.
Not living up to the potential of a top draft choice McFadden’s future in Oakland is in doubt and because of that he has been marked as a movable asset. With an expiring contract and unspectacular numbers over the past two seasons it is understandable to see McFadden floating around in trade circles. I am here to tell you why Reggie McKenzie should hold onto DMC for at least the rest of 2013.
I have three reasons:
1. Trading McFadden ends any small hope of playoffs
As it stands the Raiders are 3-4 and one game out of the AFC Wild Card. With Rashad Jennings remaining as the only reliable second option for Dennis Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Olson to turn to a McFadden trade would kill the Raiders season along with its run game. For all of the criticisms of DMC over the past years it is clear that when healthy he is always the Raiders best option and without him the running back picture is extremely dismal due to rookie Latavius Murray’s season ending injury.
With a weak schedule and an improving offensive line (more on that shortly) Reggie McKenzie would be wise to just ride out the end of McFadden’s contract and see just how far the Raiders can climb before being eliminated from the playoffs. If they can rattle off a November win streak against four straight losing teams they will still be in the discussion, that is not possible without McFadden in the backfield.
2. McFadden could still turn things around with healthy offensive line
It is no secret that the Raiders offensive line is far from the projected lineup heading into training camp. Jared Veldheer is still injured and will likely be missing until Week 10 at the earliest and second round 2013 Draft selection Menelik Watson has yet to play a game for the Silver and Black, and those two injuries just scratch the surface of what has been some of the worst injury luck at a specific position in the NFL this year.
Naturally the constant shifting of the line has led to a hit and miss running game. McFadden has an extremely low yards per carry number, but he has been relied upon heavily in the second half of ballgames to kill the clock with a loaded box that has led to a high number of 1-2 yard carries down the middle. We saw that this week in the Pittsburgh game, but we also saw a first half with two goal line carries for touchdowns that were over five yards and some explosiveness once hitting the outside. With Veldheer back the holes should get bigger and then McKenzie could get a better evaluation of DMC’s potential for the future. For now it is cloudy thanks to the offensive line issues.
3. Cap space, cap space, cap space
McFadden’s contract is expiring this spring and that number leaving the Raiders books brings the total amount of 2013 money around the $69 million mark. Adding a high priced wide receiver (Think Hakeem Nicks from the Giants or Josh Gordon from the Browns) or other position player would only be committing to less money (and draft picks if they were in the deal) for the 2014 offseason. That would be a mistake.
This season was constructed with the vision of rebuilding and adding pieces in the offseason, any major moves before Tuesday would likely change those plans. Unless the Raiders were getting a player that would be more valuable than a draft selection this spring they should stand pat regardless of if the trade involves McFadden or not. The fact that DMC is the Raiders running back workhorse makes it even more difficult to see a trade midseason.
Even if McFadden demands an absurdly high amount of money for a new deal after the season, which is unlikely given his poor numbers and red flags about his health, the Raiders can wash their hands with the running back and leave millions of dollars richer with the opportunity to build a cheap running back platoon. Of all of the options surrounding McFadden it appears that trading him is the least attractive one.
NFL Trade Deadline moves, or mid season moves in general, are very uncommon in today’s league. Between the complexity of the playbook making plugging in new players on short notice difficult and the availability of a long list of free agents each spring, GM’s are less and less apt to go all in at the poker table on Deadline Day. Reggie McKenzie is a fairly conservative General Manager by all accounts and has set his mind on a plan to make his move after the season. Don’t expect that to change unless a team over compensates and tries swinging for the fences on McFadden with a Godfather deal.
For now it seems like the player brought in to be the anchor of the Raiders offense will get at least nine more cracks at proving to the organization that he is worth making a part of their future. Whether that means he will be back for 2014 and beyond is a debate for another day, but with the NFL Trade Deadline fast approaching I think it is safe to assume that Darren McFadden isn’t going anywhere by Tuesday.