Arden Key

Raiders Notes: Ruggs, Key, Joyner

The Raiders will kick off their regular season on Monday Night Football against the Ravens tomorrow. In the meantime, let’s round up a few recent items on the Silver-and-Black:

  • The 2020 wide receiver draft class was absolutely loaded, and plenty of pundits believed Jerry Jeudy was the cream of the crop. Although no WR had been selected by the time the Raiders were on the board with the No. 12 overall pick, Las Vegas ultimately chose Henry Ruggs over Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb. As Vic Tafur of The Athletic writes, there were Jeudy supporters in the Raiders’ war room, but head coach Jon Gruden wanted his own version of Tyreek Hill, and he saw Ruggs as a player who fit that bill.
  • The Raiders selected DE Arden Key, who was once believed to be a first-round talent, in the third round of the 2018 draft. But the LSU product posted just three sacks in three seasons, and Vegas deemed him surplus to requirements in April. He was quickly scooped up by the 49ers, and he did not mince words when asked about his time with the Raiders. “To be honest, I wanted to get out of there,” Key said (via Jacob Hutchinson of KNBR.com). “I been wanting to get out of there. I wasn’t surprised. I was more happy than surprised. I wish it happened a little earlier but, hey, I got what I wanted and I’m good.” Key went on to say that the Raiders’ defensive scheme was a poor fit for him, and while he did not explicitly say so, it seems he is happy to be away from Gruden.
  • Count Lamarcus Joyner as another ex-Raider who is happy to be away from the club. The Raiders deployed Joyner — who primarily played safety with the Rams before signing a big-money free agent contract with Vegas — as a nickelback over the past several seasons, and he struggled in that role. The Raiders released him in March, and he signed with the Jets 10 days later. Gang Green will deploy him as single-high safety, and he is pleased with how things turned out. “I’m pretty sure the whole world knows that (I’m happy to be away from the Raiders),” he said. “I made that known. I’m so happy it’s over and I’m here with coach [Robert] Saleh right now” (via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com). Joyner was clear that he didn’t have an issue with Gruden personally.

49ers, DE Arden Key Agree To Deal

The 49ers have added depth pieces on offense and defense Wednesday afternoon. Shortly after San Francisco’s Wayne Gallman agreement surfaced, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets the team agreed to terms with Arden Key.

Like Gallman, Key visited the 49ers this week. Formerly an Oakland Raiders third-round draft choice, the three-year defensive end contributor will head back to the Bay Area on a one-year deal.

Las Vegas waived Key last week, doing so after adding former San Francisco defensive end Solomon Thomas in free agency. The 49ers lost Thomas and Kerry Hyder, who signed with the Seahawks, and injuries significantly affected their defensive end group last season. Both Nick Bosa and Dee Ford missed most of the season. Key may be in position to see frequent time, depending on how the 49ers proceed in the draft.

While Key went in the 2018 third round, he was viewed as a possible first-round pick at one point. The LSU product registered 11 sacks as a sophomore in 2016. While he has not produced much as a pro (three sacks in three seasons), Key did post 11 quarterback hits last season as a Raider reserve. Next season will be Key’s age-25 campaign.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers To Meet With DE Arden Key

Less than a week after the Raiders released Arden Key, the young defensive end secured a meeting in a familiar locale. The 49ers are hosting Key on a visit Tuesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

The former Bay Area resident lasted just one season in Las Vegas. The Raiders waived the ex-third-round pick last week, with fellow third-year D-lineman Maurice Hurst receiving the boot as well. The 49ers have lost multiple D-ends this offseason, with the Raiders signing Solomon Thomas and Kerry Hyder defecting to the Seahawks.

The 49ers still have Dee Ford on their roster, but he and Nick Bosa are coming off major injuries. Ford’s status is less certain, creating a need for edge depth alongside Bosa and Arik Armstead. Dion Jordan, a San Francisco contributor last season, is a free agent.

Key played three seasons with the Raiders, who nabbed the LSU product after he unexpectedly fell into Round 3. The Raiders used Key as a 10-game starter as a rookie but relegated him to backup duty over the past two seasons. For his career, Key has just three sacks in 37 games. He did register 11 QB hits in 2020, however, and will only be 25 come Week 1.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Cut Arden Key, Maurice Hurst

The Raiders are making some big cuts on their defensive line. Las Vegas has waived defensive end Arden Key and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

The Raiders have already added free agents like Yannick Ngakoue and Quinton Jefferson this offseason, making these guys more expendable. Both Key and Hurst were drafted by the Raiders in 2018, Key in the third-round and Hurst in the fifth. Hurst was initially viewed as a much better prospect, and potentially a first-rounder, until a heart condition was discovered just before the combine.

That heart issue was initially feared to be career-threatening, but fortunately Hurst was able to be cleared to play. He fell to 140th overall though, costing him a lot of money in the process. In the end, neither player made it to the end of their rookie deals.

Key started 10 games as a rookie but was used as a rotational player this past year. Despite playing around 40 percent of the defensive snaps, he finished with no sacks. The LSU product was the 87th pick in 2018 and is still only 24, so he should get scooped up before too long.

Hurst, who will turn 26 next month, was fairly productive his first two years in the league. From 2018-19, he had 7.5 sacks, six passes defended, an interception, and a couple of fumble recoveries. He was limited to 11 games this past year, finishing with 27 tackles, a half sack, and one pass defended.

Seven Raiders Defenders To Come Off Reserve/COVID-19 List

While the Raiders practiced without several defenders this week, they are at least on track to have those players in uniform Sunday night against the Chiefs.

After continuing to test negative for COVID-19, seven Raider defenders will come off the team’s coronavirus list Saturday, Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com tweets. Johnathan Abram, Johnathan Hankins, Arden Key, Maliek Collins, cornerback Isaiah Johnson and defensive lineman Kendal Vickers will be activated Saturday. David Irving is set to come off Las Vegas’ practice squad COVID-19 list, per Gutierrez.

The Raiders placed these seven players on their reserve/COVID list earlier this week, preventing each from practicing. They joined Lamarcus Joyner in that regard; the Raiders activated Joyner on Friday. This octet profiled as close contacts of Clelin Ferrell, who tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week. Abram, Hankins, Key, Collins, Johnson and Vickers will be eligible to play against the Chiefs if their most recent COVID tests come back negative Sunday morning. Irving must be activated off the Raiders’ practice squad to suit up in Week 11.

Unlike Week 7’s Raiders-Buccaneers game — which was moved out of the Sunday-night window after Las Vegas’ first-string offensive line did not practice all week because of Trent Brown‘s positive COVID test — the NFL did not switch this week’s Raiders-Chiefs rematch out of the Sunday-night time slot.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders To Place Several Defenders On Reserve/COVID-19 List

4:09pm: The following Raiders landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list: Johnathan Abram, Maliek Collins, Johnathan Hankins, Arden Key, cornerback Isaiah Johnson and defensive tackle Kendal Vickers. While this comes in under the rumored eight-starter number, five Raiders defensive first-stringers are currently sidelined — when Ferrell and Joyner are included.

3:06pm: The Raiders already prepared for a game without their first-string offensive line. They will face another difficult task ahead of their Week 11 rematch with the Chiefs.

At least eight members of the Raiders’ starting defense will land on their reserve/COVID-19 list, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Some of Las Vegas’ non-starter contributors on defense will also surface on the COVID list soon.

These players qualify as high-risk close contacts, and while Rapoport and NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero note they are not ruled out of Sunday night’s game (Twitter link), this certainly will bring another challenge for a team accustomed to dealing with them on the coronavirus front.

This news comes after the Raiders placed Clelin Ferrell and Lamarcus Joyner on their coronavirus list. The former tested positive for COVID-19, Rapoport tweets. With two starters already on the list — and Ferrell set to miss the team’s Week 11 game — Wednesday’s news would cover almost every other starting defender. The latest slew of players set to appear on Vegas’ COVID list are indeed close Ferrell contacts, Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal tweets.

Players who land on the virus list must isolate for five days. That timetable starts not at the point they land on the list but dates back to the individuals’ last contact with someone who contracted the virus. The Raiders are currently down right tackle Trent Brown due to COVID-19 and have lost a 2021 draft choice — and more than $1MM in total this season — because of failure to comply with the NFL’s COVID protocols.

Ahead of their Week 7 game against the Buccaneers, the Raiders practiced without Brown and the rest of their starting offensive line because of the group qualifying as high-risk close contacts of the mammoth tackle. The rest of the Raiders’ O-line returned to face the Bucs, which was moved from Sunday night to Sunday afternoon. With more Raiders out of practice because of the virus a month later, it would not be surprising if the NFL removes this game from the Sunday-night time slot as well to create flexibility in the event a postponement is necessary.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Arden Key Done For Season

Raiders defensive end Arden Key suffered a broken foot during the team’s win over the Lions on Sunday, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (Twitter link). After he received a second opinion from Dr. Robert Anderson, the Raiders announced that he will miss the rest of the season and be placed on IR.

The injury comes at a particularly poor time for Key, as the LSU product had recorded a sack in each of Oakland’s past two games and was finally beginning to display the pass rushing ability that once made him a potential first-round pick. A rocky final collegiate season in 2017 caused him to drop to the third round of the 2018 draft, and after posting just one sack in his rookie campaign, Key was making positive strides this year.

Key missed a game earlier this season due to a sprained patellar tendon, and after that diagnosis, the Raiders worked out a few edge defenders who could serve as a replacement.

In other Raiders-related injury news, cornerback Daryl Worley has a strained Achilles and will be getting an MRI, as Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets. Worley has started every game for Oakland this year and recorded his first pick of the season on Sunday.

Right tackle Trent Brown sustained a knee injury on Sunday and is also waiting on MRI results, per Bair.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Updates: Juszczyk, Newton, Leonard

We rounded up a few injury updates earlier today, and now we have another batch to pass along:

  • 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk will miss four to six weeks of action with a sprained MCL, as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network tweets. Pelissero also says Juice, one of the league’s most important fullbacks, will get a second opinion. There is some hope that the Harvard product can return before four weeks.
  • Panthers QB Cam Newton will not travel with the team to London this week, as Brendan Marks of the Charlotte Observer writes. Head coach Ron Rivera said Newton is making progress in his rehab of a Lisfranc injury in his left foot, but there’s still no definitive word as to when he might return.
  • The Colts are on a bye this week, and they should have a big boost when they return. LB Darius Leonard, who has missed the last three games with a concussion, shared a photo on IG saying he’s been cleared to play.
  • Raiders DE Arden Key suffered a sprained patellar tendon during the team’s win over the Bears on Sunday, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (via Twitter). He will miss several weeks, which led Oakland to work out a few edge defenders today.

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.