The Raiders dangled Johnathan Abram in trades leading up to last week’s deadline, and they are now moving on from the former first-round pick.
Las Vegas plans to cut Abram on Tuesday, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. The veteran starter, whom the Raiders recently demoted, will be available on waivers. Abram has made 34 career starts, but the Jon Gruden-era draftee was unable to carve out a spot as a long-term Raiders piece. Just more than $1MM in base salary remains on Abram’s rookie contract. The Raiders have since announced the move.
Trades of Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper gave the Raiders three first-round picks in 2019. The team selected Josh Jacobs with the Mack-produced draft slot and landed Abram with the Cooper-obtained pick. The Bears and Cowboys, respectively, gave the trade acquisitions second contracts. The Raiders did not pick up Abram or Jacobs’ fifth-year options. The first pick from the first Gruden-Mike Mayock draft, Clelin Ferrell, is also playing out his rookie contract after never gaining a foothold as a viable starter.
The Raiders shopped both Abram and Ferrell before the deadline, but no takers emerged. Despite being on Las Vegas’ roster bubble this offseason, Ferrell has seen a greater snap share compared to Abram in recent weeks. Abram started the Raiders’ first six games but did not open the team’s Week 8 Saints matchup in the lineup.
Abram, 26, played at least 75% of the Raiders’ defensive snaps over their first six games. The Raiders saw the former No. 27 overall pick’s rookie season nullified by a torn rotator cuff and a torn labrum. He bounced back to return to the starting lineup in 2020 and tallied 116 tackles in 2021. During his final three Raiders seasons, Abram has played in three defensive systems. The Raiders have gone from Paul Guenther to Gus Bradley to Patrick Graham as defensive coordinator over the past three seasons. The Raiders’ defense, which has struggled regardless of coordinator for most of the 21st century, ranks 28th in both points and yards allowed.
Coverage issues have plagued the Mississippi State alum as a pro. While Pro Football Focus rates Abram outside the top 75 among full-time safeties this season, the advanced metrics site has Vegas starter Trevon Moehrig slotted in the bottom five at the position. The Raiders’ Josh McDaniels–Dave Ziegler regime brought in ex-Patriot Duron Harmon this offseason; the veteran has worked as a full-timer at safety since arriving.
Abram’s exit during his rookie contract makes him the fourth Raider first-rounder over the past four years who failed to play out his rookie deal. The Raiders cut Henry Ruggs and Damon Arnette within a two-week period last fall, with off-field incidents leading to each’s exit. Alex Leatherwood did not make it into his second season, being waived after training camp this year. Although the Gruden era produced draft hits like Maxx Crosby and Hunter Renfrow, the first-round misses have undoubtedly set the Raiders back.