Raiders Rumors

Raiders, LB Nicholas Morrow Discussing Deal

The Raiders do not have many players left that predate Jon Gruden‘s return, but they have targeted one they would like to retain in free agency. They are in talks with Nicholas Morrow about a return, Vic Tafur of The Athletic tweets.

A Division III success story who joined the team as a UDFA during Reggie McKenzie‘s GM tenure, Morrow has been a contributor at linebacker in each of his four Raiders seasons. If unsigned by March 17, he will be an unrestricted free agent. The Raiders gave Morrow a second-round RFA tender last year.

The 25-year-old defender is coming off his best season, one in which he started a career-high 11 games. Morrow also established benchmarks in tackles (78), tackles for loss (eight) and sacks (three). Pro Football Focus rated him as a top-30 off-ball ‘backer in 2020.

A Morrow re-up would be interesting, given the Raiders’ actions last year. They spent heavily at linebacker during the 2020 free agency period. They signed Cory Littleton to a lucrative deal and gave Nick Kwiatkoski a respectable pact as well. The Gruden 2.0-era Raiders have also added the likes of Tahir Whitehead, Vontaze Burfict, Brandon Marshall and Derrick Johnson. Only Whitehead played a big role among this contingent and is now elsewhere, but the franchise has been active in free agency at linebacker.

Las Vegas has Littleton and Kwiatkoski under contract in 2021; the two combine to count for more than $20MM on the Raiders’ 2021 cap sheet. It will be interesting to see if the team devotes notable funds to keeping Morrow.

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Raiders To Release G Richie Incognito; Return Expected?

6:01pm: It is not out of the question Incognito returns to the Raiders on a new deal, however. The expectation is the veteran guard re-signs with the team on a lower-cost accord, Vic Tafur of The Athletic tweets.

5:48pm: The Raiders are making big changes on their offensive line. Following a Gabe Jackson release, Las Vegas plans to cut Richie Incognito, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Incognito played well in 2019, when the Raiders ended the second of his NFL sabbaticals, and signed an extension late in that season. However, an early-season injury shelved the veteran guard in 2020. Incognito is believed to be healthy and wants to play in 2021, per Rapoport.

An Incognito release will save the Raiders $5.5MM. He was signed only through the 2021 season. The controversial O-lineman played only two games last season, suffering a foot injury that ended up requiring surgery two months later. The Raiders entered Friday with barely $3MM in cap space.

While Incognito is better known for his off-field reputation — the bullying scandal that led him out of Miami and out of the league for the 2014 and another incident that preceded him being out of football in 2018 and left him suspended to start his Raiders tenure — the 37-year-old blocker has been a productive player when available. Pro Football Focus has graded him as a top-25 guard in every season he has played since 2010. Incognito made the Pro Bowl in each of his three Bills seasons — 2015-17 — and helped the Raiders’ 2019 O-line rate as one of the league’s best. That group has splintered this week.

In addition to releasing their Week 1 guard starters from last season, the Raiders are shopping right tackle Trent Brown. The player who took over for Incognito, Denzelle Good, is a free agent. Only left tackle Kolton Miller and standout center Rodney Hudson appear to be on solid ground among Las Vegas’ first-string blockers.

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Mike Mayock: Raiders ‘Couldn’t Be Happier’ With Derek Carr

There’s been a lot of buzz this offseason, just like the last couple of offseasons, that the Raiders could move on from Derek Carr. That includes a report from about a month ago that a number of teams had called about Carr, and that Las Vegas was at least willing to listen on those calls. 

Nothing much has happened since then though, and Raiders GM Mike Mayock recently sought to squash the speculation. “I think Derek Carr has earned a lot of respect around this league from an awful lot of people,” Mayock told reporters this week, via Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com.

I think Derek Carr had his best year yet, under Jon Gruden. I think he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL and we couldn’t be happier with him,” he continued. “If you’re asking me about Derek, I think Jon and I would both stand shoulder to shoulder and pound the table for Derek Carr.

If you’ve followed the NFL for long enough you’ve probably gotten pretty good at parsing out what’s GM-speak and what’s real, and Mayock’s comments sounded pretty emphatic and borderline definitive. He definitely didn’t do the kiss of death hedge or the “he’s our quarterback right now” that have become so popular in recent years.

At this point it seems like if a Raiders quarterback is going to get traded it’ll be Marcus Mariota, not Carr. Mariota showed well during his brief appearance in place of an injured Carr late in the season, but although there was some interest at first those talks have reportedly cooled recently as well.

Minor NFL Transactions: 3/3/21

Catching up on some minor moves from what has been a busy day as we all gear up for free agency:

Cincinnati Bengals

Chicago Bears

Las Vegas Raiders

  • Re-signed RFA: LS Trent Sieg (to three-year extension)

San Francisco 49ers

Raiders Shopping T Trent Brown

This is turning into a seminal day for the Raiders’ offensive line. Shortly after their plans to release Gabe Jackson surfaced, the team is considering moving on from Trent Brown.

The Raiders have discussed Brown with other teams, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. They signed the mammoth right tackle to a four-year, $66MM deal — then a record for right tackle deals — shortly after free agency began in 2019.

But Brown ran into issues on multiple fronts last year, limiting him to five games. When asked about Brown’s future with the team, Raiders GM Mike Mayock said the jury is “still out,” per the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore (on Twitter).

In two Raiders seasons, Brown has played in 16 total games. He suffered a calf injury in Week 1 of last season but dealt with more extensive trouble soon after, landing on the Raiders’ reserve/COVID-19 list on multiple occasions. The 380-pound lineman tested positive for the coronavirus but was ready to return for a Raiders-Browns midseason game. He landed back on Las Vegas’ COVID list after requiring hospitalization in Cleveland; Brown passed out once at the hospital and needed several weeks before returning to action.

Brown became the rare right tackle to be voted to the Pro Bowl in 2019, with his signing helping elevate the Raiders’ offensive line. Although proven O-linemen annually attract major interest, Brown’s lucrative contract may be difficult to move after his two-season Raiders run.

The Raiders signed the former 49ers draftee after he played a key role in helping the Patriots to their sixth Super Bowl title in 2018. Two seasons remain on Brown’s deal. The Raiders would save $14MM by moving on from Brown, who will turn 28 in April.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders To Release G Gabe Jackson

The Raiders will move on from their longest-tenured offensive lineman. They are releasing seven-year starting guard Gabe Jackson, according to veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson (on Twitter).

This will end a productive partnership, with Jackson having served as a Raiders starter from Day 1. The franchise drafted Jackson in the 2014 third round, where he joined Derek Carr and Khalil Mack as instant contributors from the draft class. His exit will leave Carr as the last man standing from that haul.

This is not a completely out-of-the-blue move, however. The Raiders shopped Jackson during the 2020 draft. By releasing him now, they will save $9.6MM in cap space. The team entered Wednesday slightly over the projected 2021 salary cap. Two seasons remained on the five-year extension Jackson signed in 2017.

Jackson had battled injuries in recent years, failing to make it through 16 games from 2017-19. But he bounced back and started all 16 Raider contests last season, helping Josh Jacobs to a second straight 1,000-yard season. Pro Football Focus has rated Jackson as a middling guard in recent years, after viewing him as a high-end blocker earlier in his career. Jackson, 29, still stands to generate interest on an open market that has been increasingly kind to proven O-linemen in recent years.

This has become a key day for the Raiders’ offensive front. They are shopping Trent Brown as well. At guard, however, Las Vegas has key questions after this Jackson development.

The Raiders played most of last season without Richie Incognito. He and Brown’s absences affected the O-line’s performance, with Jacobs being limited to 3.9 yards per carry. The Raiders used Denzelle Good as Incognito’s backup and drafted Clemson product John Simpson in the 2020 fourth round. Incognito is under contract for 2021, but the polarizing player will turn 38 this year and is coming off a significant injury. Good is a free agent.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Re-Sign DE Kendal Vickers

In an unsurprising move, the Raiders are committing to one of their notable exclusive rights free agents. The team announced this evening that they’ve re-signed defensive end Kendal Vickers. The lineman will earn $780K next season.

Vickers was a bit of a revelation for the Raiders in 2020. The former undrafted free agent out of Tennessee was unable to crack an active roster during his rookie campaign in 2018, and he pivoted to the Canadian Football League for the 2019 season. He signed a reserve/future contract with the Raiders towards the end of the 2019 campaign, and he ended up making the team at the end of the 2020 preseason.

At 25 years old, Vickers ended up making his NFL debut in Week 1. He missed a game due to a brief stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list, but he otherwise appeared in every game for the Raiders in 2020. He finished the campaign having compiled 10 tackles, three QB hits, and a pair of sacks, appearing in 29 percent of his team’s defensive snaps. As Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com implied, Vickers could be in line for a bigger role in 2021 considering the uncertain statuses of impending free agents Johnathan Hankins and Takk McKinley.

The Raiders will still have a decision to make on another exclusive rights free agent. Safety Dallin Leavitt is also an impending ERFA.

Seahawks’ Russell Wilson Open To Cowboys, Saints, Raiders, Bears

Russell Wilson has not demanded a trade, agent Mark Rodgers tells ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). However, the quarterback has told the Seahawks that if a trade were to be considered, he would be willing to join the Cowboys, Saints, Raiders, or Bears. Wilson, armed with a no-trade clause, will not consider any team outside of that group. 

The Jets, Dolphins, and Panthers have been heavily linked to Deshaun Watson and would surely be interested in Wilson. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t make the cut. Ditto for the Broncos, Patriots, 49ers, and the Washington Football team, who were runners-up for Matthew Stafford. Of course, it’d be difficult to imagine Wilson in San Francisco, anyway.

Given the Bears’ recent struggles, their inclusion on Wilson’s short list is a bit surprising. Ditto for the Raiders, though they could parlay their current top two quarterbacks — Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota — into additional offensive support for Wilson. The Saints would be especially intriguing for Wilson, though Drew Brees has yet to make his retirement official. Meanwhile, Wilson-to-the-Cowboys would spin this year’s quarterback carousel out of orbit and send Dak Prescott elsewhere.

Wilson, 32, has been the face of the Seahawks for years. He’s also been sacked at an alarming rate. Recently, Wilson expressed frustration with the Seahawks’ inability to protect him. As a pro, Wilson has been sacked 394 times with 40+ sacks in each season since his rookie year.

The Seahawks furnished Wilson a brand new deal less than two years ago. Today, his average annual value of $35MM/year makes him the third-highest paid player in the NFL. So far, the Seahawks have rejected all trade inquiries on him, but that hasn’t stopped teams from trying.

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Marcus Mariota Trade Market Cooling

The Raiders have received interest on Marcus Mariota, with multiple teams contacting them about their backup quarterback. But the six-year veteran’s uniquely structured contract has provided an obstacle.

Mariota’s trade market has slowed “significantly,” according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, who notes teams as of now appear unwilling to send the Raiders draft compensation for Mariota’s contract (video link).

While Mariota’s deal is a two-year, $17.6MM pact on the surface, it would spike substantially if a team used the former No. 2 overall pick as a starter in 2021. Due $10.63MM in 2021 base salary, Mariota could collect over $20MM in total next season if he works as a team’s primary starter. A $12MM salary escalator exists in the former Titans starter’s contract for the ’21 season. Were a team to trade for Mariota, it would likely need to pay him far more than the Raiders would — were they to keep him stationed as Derek Carr‘s backup.

A scenario involving a Mariota release may well surface soon. The Raiders would create $11.35MM in cap space by cutting their QB2. While Carr has (again) been linked to trades, the Raiders are more inclined to ship out Mariota in a deal. But the 27-year-old passer might not fetch much and could wind up back in free agency.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.