Arden Key

Raiders Notes: Mack, Penn, Lee, Key

Khalil Mack and the Raiders are continuing their months-long staredown, an uneventful one at that, and have not made any recent progress, Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. The subject of the Raiders’ wherewithal to pay their top player the guaranteed money he seeks still lurks, even if no official report has suggested this. Mark Davis‘ status as one of the league’s most cash-poor owners may become more relevant if the Rams agree to a deal with Aaron Donald soon, thus establishing a neighborhood for a Mack contract, Joel Corry of CBS Sports writes. Reggie McKenzie does not expect Mack to report without a contract, and Corry adds the Raiders’ agreement with Donald Penn on an extension after he ended his holdout probably doesn’t serve as relevant for the Mack situation. Due to the Raiders having not submitted an offer this offseason, Corry does not anticipate one would emerge shortly after he reported to the team.

Here’s the latest out of Oakland:

  • The Raiders indeed want Penn to accept a pay cut, Bair reports. This prospect surfaced earlier Wednesday, with a possible restructure being on the table as well. Penn, however, denied on Wednesday morning the Raiders have approached him about a reduction, Vic Tafur of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Penn has a cap number of $8.38MM. If the Raiders release him, Bair notes they would save $3MM — the non-guaranteed part of Penn’s $6MM base salary. And Penn would also miss out on $1.75MM in per-game roster bonuses. But Penn’s camp may be inclined to ride this out, leaving Jon Gruden to consider the prospect of a rookie (Kolton Miller) protecting Derek Carr‘s blind side, Tafur writes. Carr suffered a season-ending injury in 2016 and struggled with a back ailment last season.
  • Currently residing on the PUP list due to Lisfranc surgery in December, Penn is improving, Gruden said (via Bair, on Twitter). The Oakland HC said Penn is getting close and is hopefully back soon.
  • Gruden’s spoken highly of Derrick Johnson after adding the longtime Chiefs stalwart this offseason, but Tafur notes second-year linebacker Marquel Lee may now be better positioned to start at middle linebacker. Johnson could still factor in on passing downs, per Tafur, even at age 35. But he adds rookie UDFA Jason Cabina is seeing work in nickel sets as well. Lee impressed the Raiders last year, but that optimism soon gave way to the team signing NaVorro Bowman and installing him as the starter. The Raiders discussed a Bowman return this offseason, but the sides couldn’t agree on terms. A Vontaze Burfict trade didn’t get too far off the ground either, per Tafur.
  • If/when Mack re-emerges, new DC Paul Guenther is planning a passing-down set featuring Mack, Irvin, Arden Key and whichever of the Mario Edwards/Maurice Hurst/P.J. Hall trio is playing the best at that time, Bair notes. Key’s inclusion as the No. 3 man here is interesting, considering Edwards’ experience as an inside rusher and Key’s own fall to the third round. But the LSU product, once considered a possible first-rounder, has impressed the Raiders this summer.

Raiders Rumors: Switzer, DL, Kickers

While Jon Gruden‘s yet to bestow much praise upon Martavis Bryant, the Raiders’ other wide receiver trade acquisition has impressed the new coach. It’s looking like the former Cowboys draft choice will have a role in the passing game, and Ryan Switzer certainly will contribute on special teams. Switzer returned seven punts for touchdowns while at North Carolina, including five his freshman year. He returned a punt for a score last season as a rookie.

He’s a guy that can change the game, I think, on third down. He’s a tough matchup,” Gruden said, via Vic Tafur of The Athletic (subscription required). “He’s quick. He has vertical speed. He has special teams ability. … I love Switzer. I think he’s one of the best punt returners of college football, perhaps the history of college football. He’s as good as I saw.”

Seth Roberts has served as the Raiders’ top slot option for the better part of the past three seasons for a team that hasn’t featured much depth at the position. Switzer, if nothing else, may supply that.

Here’s the latest out of Oakland.

  • It’s not finalized the Raiders will play the 2019 season in Oakland, but they will remain in Napa, Calif., for training camp next year. It could be their last one in northern California, however. In 2020, Reno has emerged as the favorite, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal notes. Reno officials visited Raiders camp this weekend, Gehlken reports, and Las Vegas has been ruled out as a camp site. The Raiders hope to play the 2019 season in Oakland, and while 2020 represents the franchise’s relocation goal, a firm departure date hasn’t been established.
  • Giorgio Tavecchio‘s kicking foot looks to have played a key part in his Raiders downfall. Holder Johnny Townsend had to switch sides when the Silver and Black alternated reps between last year’s kicker (Tavecchio, who is left-footed) and rookie UDFA Eddy Pineiro, and Gruden was tired of that continuing to be required, he said today (via Tafur). Gruden added that Pineiro has kicked well in camp and that he views Mike Nugent as a legitimate option, rather than a mere mentor.
  • The Raiders have not been able to supplement Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin with much in the way of complementary pass rushers the past two seasons, but a growing belief exists among Raiders coaches and scouts their rookie contingent of defensive linemen — P.J. Hall, Arden Key and Maurice Hurst — can be early contributors, Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. The team has injury-prone defensive end Mario Edwards entering a contract year and fifth-year nose tackle Justin Ellis back. And the Raiders signed Tank Carradine in March. Eddie Vanderdoes enters his second season after being a primary starter as a rookie, but he’s coming off an ACL tear. The team looks to have a deeper pool of options up front.
  • The Raiders are also making some history on their strength and conditioning staff. Kelsey Martinez is signed on to work as an assistant strength assistant, Gehlken writes. The 26-year-old becomes the franchise’s first woman to work in this department. Martinez worked under new Raiders strength boss Tom Shaw at the Tom Shaw Performance facility in Orlando, Fla., the past four years.

Raiders Sign Rookie Arden Key

Arden Key is officially under contract with the Raiders. On Friday, Oakland announced the signing of the third-round defensive end.

Heading into draft season, Key was widely projected as a first-round pick. However, his rocky 2017 season at LSU damaged his stock. In his final year on campus, Key spent time in rehab, injured his shoulder, and porked up from 235 lbs to 270.

However, given his 2016 performance – 12.5 tackles for loss and eleven sacks – the Raiders believe they have a draft steal on their hands. The athletic youngster will serve as a reserve behind Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin in his first year, joining Mario Edwards, Tank Carradine, and possibly Frostee Rucker as bench DEs.

With Key under contract, the Raiders have now signed every player in their 2018 draft class. Here’s the complete rundown, via PFR’s tracker:

Raiders Trade With Rams, Select Arden Key

Arden Key‘s slide looks to have stopped. The Raiders have moved into the No. 87 draft position and are selecting the LSU edge defender.

The Rams traded out of the No. 87 slot and will drop back two positions in this third round, with Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com reporting (via Twitter) Los Angeles will also collect a a sixth-round compensatory pick (No. 217) in this exchange.

Key was projected by some to be a first-round pick earlier in the pre-draft process, and he joins former LSU teammate Derrius Guice as Tigers to endure lengthy slips during draft weekend.

A dominant player in 2016 with an LSU-record 12.5 sacks, the 6-foot-6 Key spent time in rehab for marijuana usage and was overweight for his final season in Baton Rouge, La. But Key is viewed as a first-round-level talent, and he’ll join an edge-rushing contingent and is set to play behind Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

LSU’s Key, Guice To Slip In Draft?

Two top talents from LSU could slide in this year’s draft, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com. Despite their talent, teams have serious concerns about defensive end Arden Key and running back Derrius Guice.

Key’s issues have been well-documented. The edge rusher is coming off of a down year and recently revealed to teams that his “leave of absence” from the team stemmed from a voluntary stint in rehab for marijuana use.

He was a shell of what he was,” an AFC scout said of his 2017 season. “His actions have proven to be habitual, and I don’t know that he can kick it.

Marijuana isn’t a major deal for NFL teams in this day and age, but Pelissero hears that evaluators see his usage as an impediment to his career. Key has to answer for being overweight in his final season on campus and clubs are also concerned about his offseason shoulder surgery. On a Friday afternoon conference call, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said that he thinks Key is likely to go in the fourth or fifth round because of off-field concerns.

Guice, meanwhile, still ranks as one of the top players at his position, but personality concerns could hurt him. Guice made headlines earlier this year when he said that he was asked during combine interviews about his sexual orientation and whether his mother was a prostitute. Apparently, Guice has privately walked back those claims and said that he was not asked those questions by NFL teams.

His explanation was that it was taken out of context,” one executive said. “There’s just a lot going on with him.

While Key now seems a longshot to hear his name called in Day 1 of the draft, Guice could still be a first round pick.

Is he talented? Yep. Do you have to have a handle on how to deal with him? Absolutely,” an offensive coordinator said. “He’s not a bad person — he’s just immature, silly. If he wasn’t all that other stuff, he’d be drafted in the top 20 picks. And he still might be in the top 20 picks.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Rumors: Cowboys, Key, Bills

Wednesday marks the final day for NFL draft visits, and we have some notable ones to pass along. Here’s the latest NFL Draft news:

  • LSU linebacker/defensive end Arden Key worked out with the Cowboys on Tuesday and met with the Saints on Wednesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
  • Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans is visiting the Bills and Texas tackle Connor Williams is visiting the Packers, Rapoport tweets.
  • The Patriots are hosting Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley on a pre-draft visit, a source tells Rapoport (on Twitter). The Patriots aren’t known for taking receivers in the first round, but Ridley could be an exception as they look to rebuild that group. Ridley also visited the Bears on Tuesday.
  • Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore seems to be a firm first round prospect, according to Rapoport (on Twitter). For a while, Moore appeared to be a fringe first/second round type, so his stock is improving as the draft draws near. Moore met with the Bills, who pick No. 12 and 22, on Wednesday.
  • Ohio State center Billy Price will meet with the Seahawks, Alex Marvez of SiriusXM tweets. Price is recovering from a torn pectoral muscle he suffered during the bench press at the combine. The good news is that Price is expected to be ready in time for training camp.

NFL Draft Rumors: Guice, Redskins, Patriots, Bills, Giants, Darnold

Running back Derrius Guice visited the Redskins at their team facility on Monday, a source tells John Keim of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The Redskins have been public about their desire to add a pass-catching running back and Guice, with 18 catches last year at LSU, would fit the bill.

With needs to address on the other side of the ball, many believe that the Redskins will take a defensive player at No. 13 overall. However, the Redskins could probably trade back into the early 20s to take Guice and address their defensive holes later on.

Here’s the latest round of NFL draft news:

  • The Patriots hosted UCLA left tackle Kolton Miller on a pre-draft visit, Ben Volin of The Boston Globe tweets.
  • Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen met with the Bills on Monday and will travel to the Giants on Tuesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Meanwhile, USC QB Sam Darnold met with the Giants on Monday and will meet with the Jets on Tuesday.
  • Linebacker Rashaan Evans visited the Bengals on Monday, Rapoport tweets. The Bengals own the No. 21 pick in the draft, which could allow them to snag the Alabama standout.
  • Speaking of Alabama, Rapoport also notes that standout defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne met with the Redskins on Monday. Payne has shot up draft boards in recent weeks thanks to his remarkable strength. “He’s the best. He’s the best I’ve seen,”Alabama strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran said earlier this year. “I’ve never seen a guy hit 385 on the power clean every single year. His first year he hit 365 on the power clean and it was like wow, freshman, that’s incredible.
  • USC running back Ronald Jones visited the Patriots on Monday, Rapoport tweets. Within the same tweet, he notes that Stanford safety Justin Reid visited the Panthers before heading off to his Steelers visit.
  • Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson took a pre-draft visit to meet with the 49ers on Monday, a league source told Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. The 49ers have the ninth pick in the first round and Jackson is projected to come off the board as a middle-to-late first-round pick.
  • LSU pass-rusher Arden Key visited the Bears on Monday, Rapoport tweets. He also notes Memphis wide receiver Anthony Miller visited the Redskins on Monday and Tulane cornerback Parry Nickerson visited the Raiders.

Draft Notes: Key, Jackson, Kirk, Price, Patriots

Former LSU defensive end and top draft prospect Arden Key has told teams that he has been sober for more than a year, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler writes.

This is big news from a player who has been speculated to have off-the-field concerns. Key is supposedly being up front with the teams about his issues, which included taking a leave of absence from the Tigers for four months beginning in February 2017 for personal reasons. He will not disclose the reasoning for that absence with the media — which is his right — but is reportedly laying it all out in front of teams.

Rated as one of the top prospects before the start of the 2017 season, Key is now viewed mostly as a potential late-first-round pick, but more likely to go off the board on second day of the draft.

Noted pass rush coach Chuck Smith is a big fan of Key, saying he is a threat to challenge for double-digit sacks the moment he enters the league. His honesty with teams and ability to stay sober for more than a year could put teams more at ease about taking a shot on the talented pass rusher.

Here’s more surrounding the draft:

  • Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk visited with the Steelers on Friday, Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Kirk has also visited with the Seahawks and Panthers, a pair of teams in need of a receiver. The Steelers seem set at the position with Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster but have not been shy about adding to a loaded receiver position in the past.
  • Former Cardinals head coach and quarterback guru Bruce Arians is a big fan of Louisville product Lamar Jackson, Bob McManaman of AZ Central writes. “I think Lamar puts the time in. He’s going to get better, and he just brings that unique ability to break the game open with his legs. Because he does it. He sits in there and flips it up the field,” Arians said. “He’s been in a pro-style offense. He’s more of a scrambler with designed runs. I don’t think I’d design runs for him. I would just let him, a la Russell Wilson, take what’s there, and whoosh, take off running.” The Cardinals could have interest in Jackson at the No. 15 spot in the upcoming draft.
  • In a panel piece on ESPN, a host of writers tabbed left tackle as the position the team should focus on in the first round if everything were to fall perfectly. With the team owning the 23rd and 31st picks, New England could potentially address the position by taking Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey late in the first round. The tackle is rated by many pundits as the best at the position this year.
  • Ohio State center/guard Billy Price had his NFL Combine medical recheck on Friday, Darren Wolfson of KSTP 5 News reports (Twitter link). He notes the potential first-round pick is expected to receive full clearance soon.

NFL Draft Rumors: Bears, Nelson, 49ers, Key

Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson visited the Bears on Thursday, Josh Norris of NBC Sports tweets. Nelson would be a logical consideration for Chicago at No. 8. New Bears offensive line coach Harry Hiestand served in the same role at Notre Dame while Nelson was in school and Nelson has said that he would like to play for him again.

Here’s the latest batch of NFL Draft news:

  • The 49ers, who worked out LSU pass rusher Arden Key earlier this week, hosted him on a Top 30 visit on Friday, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Key’s stock may be falling in the eyes of NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, who pulled him from the latest edition of his Top 50 list, but Key still seems to be very much in the mix for the first or second round. As of this writing, The 49ers own the No. 9 pick in the first round and the No. 59 pick in the second round.
  • OSU defensive end Sam Hubbard will visit the Bengals on Friday, per Rapoport. For what it’s worth, Hubbard has also fallen out of Jeremiah’s top 50 after being ranked No. 41 in the previous edition.
  • The Bengals took former Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey to dinner on Thursday night, Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com tweets. The Bengals already made one major tackle acquisition when they traded for left tackle Cordy Glenn, but McGlinchey could be in consideration as they look to fortify the other side of the line. The Bengals own the No. 21 pick in the draft, which could be the right range to select him.

NFL Draft Rumors: Patriots, Key, 49ers

After losing Nate Solder in free agency, the Patriots are on the lookout for offensive tackle help. With that in mind, the Patriots hosted Texas tackle Connor Williams on a visit on Wednesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Thanks to the Brandin Cooks trade earlier this offseason, the Pats are armed with two picks late in the first round. Williams could be available when the Pats are called to the podium at No. 23, though the league-wide need for tackles could result in the 6’6″ lineman going higher.

Here’s the latest batch of NFL draft news:

  • LSU outside linebacker/defensive end Arden Key worked out for the 49ers on Wednesday and will move on to the Raiders on Thursday, Rapoport tweets.
  • South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert, who could be the first tight end to come off of the board, visited the Dolphins on Wednesday, Rapoport tweets. Miami is reportedly high on him, but he has also met with the Seahawks, Chargers, and Lions, according to Rapoport. As previously reported, the Vikings met with Goedert last week.
  • Cornerback Isaiah Oliver has had workouts/visits with the Eagles, Falcons, Bears, Texans, 49ers, Cardinals, Panthers, Patriots, Saints, Broncos, and Cowboys, sources tell Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). Miller personally believes that he would be a great fit for Arizona. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah has Oliver ranked as the 36th best prospect in this year’s draft and it would be no surprise to see him go in the first round.
  • Georgia running back Nick Chubb will visit with the Buccaneers on Wednesday, according to Josh Norris of NBC Sports (on Twitter). Chubb has been lauded for his power and ability to run on the inside and figures to be a second round pick.
  • The Lions hosted Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson for a visit on Tuesday, Rapoport tweets. Johnson was recently bumped from Jeremiah’s top 50 but should still garner consideration in the second round.