Andre James

OL Rumors: Raiders, 49ers, Giants, Solder, Eagles

The Raiders are tracking to have two starters from their 2020 Week 1 offensive line setup back, with Kolton Miller signed long-term and Richie Incognito back on a lower-cost deal. But spillover from another training camp battle may affect Incognito’s standing. Denzelle Good and John Simpson will vie for the starting right guard spot, but Vic Tafur and Tashan Reed of The Athletic note Raiders coaches have informed the team’s guards the loser of this competition may still wind up replacing Incognito at left guard (subscription required). Incognito, 38, played well in 2019 but missed 14 games due to an Achilles injury last season. The Raiders cut him in March but re-signed him weeks later on a one-year, $2.12MM deal. Good replaced Incognito last year, and the Raiders are hoping Simpson — a 2020 fourth-round pick out of Clemson — can win the right guard competition.

Here is more on the Raiders’ O-line and the latest from some other offensive fronts around the league:

  • Elsewhere on Las Vegas’ O-line, the center spot may not be much of a competition. Despite offseason addition Nick Martin having started four full seasons with the Texans, the former second-round pick appears to be clearly behind former UDFA Andre James, according to The Athletic. After trading Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson to the Cardinals, the Raiders gave James an extension. James has played 116 offensive snaps as a pro; all came in 2019.
  • Nate Solder has moved to the Giants‘ roster bubble, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. The 6-foot-8 veteran worked as New York’s starting left tackle in 2018 and ’19, after signing a then-record tackle contract in free agency, but opted out in 2020. The Giants can spread out Solder’s cap hit over multiple years, but they would face a $13.5MM cumulative dead-money charge by cutting Solder. Andrew Thomas has taken over as New York’s left tackle, with Raanan adding that Solder will compete with second-year blocker Matt Peart for the right tackle job. Solder has not been a full-time right tackle since his rookie season in 2011.
  • Although former UDFA Daniel Brunskill provided some stability amid 49ers injury chaos last season, starting 16 games, the team plans to return him to a utility role. The 49ers are eyeing second-round pick Aaron Banks as their starting right guard, Matt Barrows and David Lombardi of The Athletic note. Brunskill worked as a swing backup as a rookie in 2019, primarily filling in for left tackle Joe Staley. The 49ers selected Banks 48th overall; the 325-pound rookie started in part of his sophomore season and throughout his junior and senior years at Notre Dame.
  • Rather than stockpile depth at tackle, the Eagles may look to trade the loser of the Andre DillardJordan Mailata left tackle competition, Eliot Shorr-Parks writes. While keeping both would provide insurance, Shorr-Parks notes moving Mailata in a contract year would make sense and Dillard may lose more value if he goes through this season as a backup. A 2019 first-round pick, Dillard missed all of last season due to injury and has logged just four career starts. A rugby convert chosen as a project in the 2018 seventh round, Mailata spent two full seasons in development but broke into Philadelphia’s starting lineup for 10 games last season.

Raiders Re-Sign Andre James

The Raiders have re-signed offensive lineman Andre James with a new three-year contract worth $12.5MM (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). The deal includes roughly $6MM guaranteed and keeps him beyond his would-be final year before restricted free agency. James, billed as the team’s center of the future, is now locked in through 2023. 

[RELATED: Raiders Trade Hudson To Cardinals]

Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson, right tackle Trent Brown, and longtime right guard Gabe Jackson are out of the picture, leaving James with an opportunity to take the next step forward. It’s not clear on how the team will use James and newly-acquired center Nick Martin, however, but both players figure to factor into the front five.

The Raiders were set to release Hudson outright before they struck a deal with the Cardinals last week. After paving the way for three 1,000-yard rushing seasons, he leaves some big shoes to fill. Just last year, Pro Football Focus graded the veteran as its No. 8 overall center in the NFL.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders To Sign C Nick Martin

After trading their center of the past six years, the Raiders appear to have settled on a replacement. They are signing former Texans snapper Nick Martin, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Martin’s work will not remind most of Rodney Hudson‘s, with the since-traded center being a three-time Pro Bowler. Still, the Raiders figure to save substantially by replacing Hudson with Martin.

Transitioning to their Nick Caserio regime, the Texans cut Martin after he spent the past four seasons as their starting center. While he did not fare as well as Hudson did in this span, Martin did receive an $11MM-per-year extension from the previous Texans regime. Martin will attempt to rebound in Las Vegas.

The Raiders have made some interesting decisions this week. Their three highest-paid O-linemen — Hudson, right tackle Trent Brown and longtime right guard Gabe Jackson — are gone. The team has since re-signed Richie Incognito after cutting him, and brought back the player who replaced Incognito post-injury last season, Denzelle Good. Las Vegas appears to still have a hole at right tackle, but the other four spots along its offensive line may be set.

However, third-year blocker Andre James may factor into the equation at center. This should be considered James’ job to lose, Vic Tafur of The Athletic tweets. While Martin has a massive experience edge (62 starts to one), he might not be a lock to start in Vegas.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC West Notes: Mahomes, Lock, Harris, Raiders

Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes is questionable for Kansas City’s upcoming game against the Vikings, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Mahomes, of course, was injured on Thursday Night Football of Week 7 against the Broncos during a quarterback sneak. In a freak incident, Mahomes dislocated his right kneecap.

He returned to practice just six days after the injury, but was quickly ruled out for last Sunday’s game against the Packers. While his status is still up in the air, Rapoport reiterates “At the least, he is considered to have a shot to play.” At 5-3, Kansas City has some breathing room in the AFC West divisional race. However, the chances of a high seed and a first-round bye would be greatly diminished the longer they have to stick with backup Matt Moore.

Here’s more from around the AFC West:

  • While quarterback Brandon Allen is currently next in line for the Broncos after Joe Flacco‘s injury landed him on injured reserve, the team plans to play rookie second-round pick Drew Lock in Denver’s final two games against the Lions and Raiders, according Mike Klis of 9News. Flacco was diagnosed with a disk injury in his neck that requires at least six weeks to recover. Given the Broncos 2-6 record, the team decided to shut down the veteran for the season. Allen is in his fourth NFL season, but has yet to appear in a regular season game.
  • After weeks of trade rumors, Broncos cornerback Chris Harris could be staying in the mile-high city beyond this season, according to Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic. With three young daughters and a fourth coming soon, Harris told Jhabvala he was “Definitely relieved and happy to be able to finish the year here.” The news comes as somewhat of a surprise given Harris’ tumultuous relationship with the organization over the past few seasons. However, according to Jhabvala, the team’s new coaching staff has meshed well with the upcoming free-agent.
  • Both Raiders centers Rodney Hudson and Andre James are listed as questionable for Sunday’s matchup against the Lions. They both are dealing with ankle injuries and managed to practice, but according to head coach Jon Gruden, both were “sore.”

Raiders C Rodney Hudson To Miss Time

Raiders center Rodney Hudson is expected to miss time while dealing with an ankle injury, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Hudson isn’t the only Oakland center sidelined by an ankle issue — backup Andre James is also battling a sprain, and he too could miss the Raiders’ Week 9 game against the Raiders. If neither Hudson nor James can play on Sunday, veteran left guard Richie Incognito will likely slide to center and play the pivot for the first time since 2010, tweets Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area. Fellow center Erik Magnuson, signed earlier today, may also be in contention to start in the middle of Oakland’s front five.

Hudson isn’t going on injured reserve, an indication the Raiders don’t believe his injury to be a long-term issue. But there’s no question the veteran center’s presence will be missed for however long he remains sidelined. Oakland, which has a 21% chance of earning a postseason berth per FiveThirtyEight.com, already had its bye in Week 6, so there’s no free week for Hudson to get healthy late in the season.

Midway through his ninth NFL campaign (and fifth in Oakland), Hudson is still playing like one of the NFL’s best centers. Through seven starts, Hudson grades as the league’s third-best pivot, per Pro Football Focus, which ranks Hudson as the NFL’s No. 2 pass-blocking center behind only Cleveland’s J.C. Tretter. As a unit, the Raiders’ offensive line ranks top-four in both pass-blocking and run-blocking, according to Football Outsiders‘ adjusted yards metrics.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Sign 10 UDFAs

Teams continue to announce their undrafted free agent hauls. Here is the Raiders’ 10-man contingent:

Going heavy on offensive linemen after a nine-player draft did not bring any blockers, the Raiders added some big-school talent with extensive starting experience. Cotton started 28 games for the Crimson Tide, at both left and right guard, helping Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris and Raiders first-rounder Josh Jacobs to big per-carry numbers. McNeil has both guard and tackle experience and was a key presence (46 starts in a four-year career) in helping Lamar Jackson to two dominant seasons with the Cardinals.

The duo, along with James and Roemer, will battle to join 2018 second-round pick Brandon Parker among the Raiders’ backup linemen. With Brandon Marshall and Vontaze Burfict signed to one-year deals, the Raiders’ Las Vegas tenure may need some new blood at linebacker. The Raiders did not draft one, so Coney (two 100-plus-tackle seasons with the Fighting Irish) and Farmer (28 starts with the Nittany Lions) figure to be candidates to stick around via the 53-man roster or, more likely, the practice squad.

Doss said he received better offers than what the Raiders proposed, but UC Davis’ all-time receiving leader opted to play for his hometown team (before it relocates to Vegas next year). Jon Gruden mentioned pre-draft that he wanted to add at least one more cornerback to the roster, but the Raiders drafted both Trayvon Mullen (in Round 2) and Isaiah Johnson (in Round 4). That will make Mabin and Nixon’s paths to the active roster difficult.