New year, new regime. The difference between the new Raiders’ regime and the previous one? This front office is not messing around.
Today is the day teams leaguewide must present their initial 53-man rosters, and the first-year Raider duo of Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler have not taken that lightly. In fact, this new regime isn’t playing around in the slightest.
With so much depth on the roster, to the point Las Vegas finished the preseason undefeated for the first time in franchise history, figuring out who gets the axe has never been more difficult. Veterans such as Kenyan Drake and Demarcus Robinson, who seemed to have clear-cut roles, fell victim to this depth which ultimately led to their time in Las Vegas expiring.
If you thought Robinson and Drake were the final surprises before the regular season kicks off, think again. This afternoon, the Las Vegas Raiders officially announced the departure of their 2021 first-round pick, Alex Leatherwood.
As poorly as Leatherwood has played, posting a pass blocking grade of 29.0 last season, this is truly a surprise. The favorite for right tackle, Brandon Parker (sorry Raider Nation – I know you hate to see Parker was the favorite for the job), was placed on the Injured Reserves list. This left the right side of the offensive line even thinner.
Other factors make this move shocking. Most notably, in addition to the lack of depth with Parker on the IR list, the Raiders swallow an $8 million cap hit for parting ways with Leatherwood. Of course, on top of that, the former Alabama lineman had only played one season in the National Football League.
Be that as it may, the move has been made, and Alex Leatherwood is no longer a Raider.
A trade was always the more reasonable option, not because the team is getting something in return, but because shipping Leatherwood would sink his dead cap hit from $8 million to $2 million. If you have to eat a cap hit, you naturally go for the one that’s 75% less. Unfortunately for the Raiders, they contacted all 32 teams, and per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Las Vegas heard “no” 32 times.
Alex Leatherwood isn’t the only surprise today from the Raiders’ new regime.
That’s right. While Las Vegas cutting ties with their first-round pick from last year’s draft was big news, it wasn’t the only notable thing that happened.
The Raiders signed Anthony Averett to a one-year, $4 million deal this offseason. The team has also been experimenting with cornerback Nate Hobbs on the outside, both of which have impressed in a big way. Ya-Sin was so highly regarded in Las Vegas’ eyes that they shelled out Pro Bowl alternate Yannick Ngakoue in a straight-up deal for the young corner.
This left one man out – Trayvon Mullen.
As Averett, Hobbs, and Ya-Sin continued to thrive in camp, Mullen continued to miss time. Last week, Josh McDaniels proved anyone’s job is replaceable if they miss time when Ameer Abdullah took over Kenyan Drake’s role in the offense. This even led to Drake being a cut victim. The Raiders’ first-year head coach doubled down on that view, trading Trayvon Mullen to the Arizona Cardinals.
In exchange for Mullen, Arizona will ship a conditional seventh-round pick to Las Vegas. Based on Mullen’s playtime as a Cardinal, that seventh-rounder could become a sixth.
This move always made sense, in fact, I had even predicted it two weeks ago. While Averett and Hobbs kept impressing, Mullen kept missing time. As the kids say, “You snooze, you lose.”
Another factor I had considered is that both Ya-Sin and Mullen were in the final year of their rookie contract – actually, both Mullen and Ya-Sin were selected within 7 picks from each other. At the end of the day, the Raiders weren’t going to pay both of these men to return, and the priority is clearly on Ya-Sin. After all, the team didn’t trade their double-digit sack collector for a corner they have no intentions of keeping.
The Raiders preseason is officially wrapped up, and it's time to answer the big question: what does the 53-man roster look like? Here's my prediction.
The Raiders are making moves, and the new regime in Las Vegas is not playing around. Could there be more surprises beyond the horizon? We’ll wait and see, but for now, Leatherwood and Trayvon Mullen have highlighted today’s shockers.