Recent developments have magnified the bargain the Raiders have in Darren Waller, who is attached to a contract he has outplayed. Tied to the 17th-highest average salary among tight ends, Waller is set to make $6.25MM in 2022.
David Njoku, whose production Waller has lapped despite having less time as a starting tight end, now has a $14.2MM-per-year contract. The Raiders gave Hunter Renfrow a $16MM-per-year extension Friday. Waller, 29, has not indicated he plans to make his $7.6MM-AAV deal an issue this year, having reported to minicamp this week. Given the circumstances, it would not surprise if the two-time 1,100-yard pass catcher did attempt to inject urgency into this situation before Week 1.
The Raiders view Waller as a key player, and Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal calls a second Waller-Raiders extension imminent. Waller said conversations have occurred this offseason, but Bonsignore adds the team still might be attempting to push true extension talks to 2023. Two seasons remain on the extension Waller signed in 2019. The tight end market is different now, with several players whose work does not compare to Waller’s ahead of him on the salary hierarchy. No guarantees remain on Waller’s deal.
On one hand, waiting until 2023 could benefit Waller. He is coming off an injury-limited season and is set to play for Josh McDaniels, whose play calls helped turn Rob Gronkowski into a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. The Raiders’ Waller-Renfrow-Davante Adams setup should open the door for more looks for the two holdovers. Of course, the other side of this is Waller risks suffering another injury that could diminish his value. The late-bloomer’s age (30 in September) also stands to be an issue, with extension talks ahead of an age-31 season slightly different than prioritizing a deal now.
Will the longtime centerpiece of the Raiders’ passing attack be content going into camp with Adams tied to a deal worth nearly four times his own and now Renfrow attached to a contract worth more than double his? With the Raiders having rewarded their top two wideouts, how they proceed with their standout tight end will be one of this summer’s more interesting storylines.
Multiple teams passed on deploying Denzel Perryman in 2021. The Chargers opted not to re-sign the veteran linebacker, and the Panthers traded him just months after adding him as a free agent. Perryman found his footing again with the Raiders.
Playing a career-high 863 defensive snaps, the former second-round pick turned in his most productive season in his first Las Vegas campaign. The Raiders are changing defensive schemes again, replacing longtime Perryman coordinator Gus Bradley with Patrick Graham. But they are interested in another Perryman contract, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter). The sides have discussed a new deal.
Tied to the two-year, $6.1MM contract he signed with the Panthers, the 29-year-old linebacker is set to make just $1.1MM in base salary this season. By virtue of their designating Carl Nassib and two-year linebacker starter Cory Littleton as post-June 1 cuts, the Raiders have come into some money. Their $22.5MM in available funds currently ranks third in the NFL.
Perryman made 154 tackles last season, topping his previous career-high total (set during his rookie season in 2015) by a cool 81. The Bolts re-signed Perryman in 2019, giving him a two-year deal worth $12MM. But he mostly worked in a part-time role during that contract. Injuries played a part in Perryman’s stock slipping as a Charger, but he played a career-high 15 games last season. Pro Football Focus did not view Perryman as one of last season’s better linebackers, but the veteran second-level defender earned a Pro Bowl bid as an alternate.
The Raiders added Jayon Brown, Kenny Young and Micah Kiser at inside linebacker this offseason, largely dismantling their 2021 setup outside of Perryman. The team cut Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski and did not re-sign K.J. Wright. Perryman played for Bradley for the past five seasons, with the veteran coordinator moving from Los Angeles to Vegas last year.
The Dave Ziegler–Josh McDaniels regime has not been shy about extensions for holdover players, however. The new Vegas power brokers have authorized extensions for Renfrow, Maxx Crosby and Derek Carr this offseason. Darren Waller may be on the docket, too, with Fowler indicating the Pro Bowl tight end is a priority as well. Waller will certainly cost far more to extend than Perryman.
Tied to a below-market extension at a position that appears underpaid relative to the value its top talents provide, Darren Waller is playing on one of the NFL’s most team-friendly contracts. Going into his age-30 season, the Raiders tight end is running short on time to cash in.
The veteran pass catcher confirmed his agent and the Raiders have discussed this contract — a four-year, $29.8MM deal signed in 2019 — this offseason. Following David Njoku‘s four-year, $56.75MM deal, Waller’s status was bound to come up. Because of contracts handed out to Njoku and other less accomplished tight ends this offseason, Waller now resides as the NFL’s 17th-highest-paid tight end. He is due nonguaranteed base salaries of $6.25MM in 2022 and ’23.
“My agent is working on that,” Waller said during an appearance on the Ross Tucker Podcast (via Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk). “I understand it, but I know if I focus on it too much, it could take away from my job and learning a new system and just continuing to try to elevate and take care of my body in the right way. I try to focus on those things and let my agent handle that. When decisions need to be made, decisions need to be made.”
The Raiders possess the leverage of having Waller under contract for two more years. They just gave Davante Adams a monster extension and have Hunter Renfrow entering a contract year. At 26, Renfrow is three years younger than Waller. But tight ends with Waller’s pass-catching pedigree are a rarer commodity than effective slot receivers. Waller is one of only eight tight ends in NFL history to have compiled two 1,100-yard years. Current tight end salary kingpin George Kittle is not even on that list.
That said, Josh McDaniels has contributed plenty to Renfrow’s position, seeing Wes Welker turn into an All-Pro and Julian Edelman grow into a quality receiver-turned-Super Bowl MVP under his watch. This might not be an either/or situation between Waller and Renfrow, but considering Adams’ contract and Derek Carr now attached to a short-term deal averaging $40.1MM annually, a Waller-or-Renfrow scenario is a situation to monitor.
Waller has said the right things and has not made this a major issue. He shot down a trade rumor in April, but a report at that time indicated the Raiders are likely a year away from addressing Waller’s deal. That may be too much for Waller to stomach. Although the midcareer breakout player is coming off an 11-game season, he has been the Raiders’ aerial centerpiece since 2019, when the former Baltimore wide receiver’s belated Oakland emergence helped a passing game reeling from the Antonio Brown fiasco.
Players like Will Dissly and C.J. Uzomah, both inking $8MM-per-year deals, each surpassed Waller in AAV this offseason. Njoku’s deal — a $14.2MM pact making the unproven Browns talent the league’s fourth-highest-paid tight end — may have a more notable effect. Njoku has just one 500-yard season in five years. Waller has lapped that production, topping Njoku’s best year even during his 2021 injury-limited campaign. Not unlike Sammy Watkins‘ 2018 deal or Christian Kirk‘s free agency accord this year, the Njoku contract could have a notable effect on the tight end market. How the Cowboys and Dolphins proceed with their respective franchise-tagged tight ends, Dalton Schultz and Mike Gesicki (one 800-yard season between them), stands to affect Waller’s status as well.
The Raiders’ Adams extension, which preceded the Dolphins’ $30MM-AAV Tyreek Hill deal, created a massive gulf between the highest-paid wideouts and Kittle’s $15MM-per-year tight end topper. That strange imbalance adds to the value the Raiders have in Waller, who signed his deal at a time when the Patriots’ wildly team-friendly Rob Gronkowski contract (six years, $54MM) limited other tight ends’ earning power. Rostering Adams while extending Renfrow and keeping Waller on this contract would represent the ideal 2022 Raiders route; that would surely not sit well with their Pro Bowl tight end.
Even at 29, Waller can command a deal in the Kittle ballpark. Were Waller a free agent in March, teams likely would have submitted position-record offers. If the Raiders attempt to move extension talks to 2023, that would hurt the Georgia Tech alum’s value, since he would be negotiating ahead of an age-31 season. Waller has moved past the substance-abuse issues that plagued him with the Ravens, and while the Jon Gruden regime did well to extend the comeback story early, the tight end market’s shift will almost certainly make this contract an issue soon.
The current CBA makes training camp holdouts difficult to wage. Minicamp represents the next chapter here, though no indications have emerged Waller will stay away. Staging a hold-in similar to T.J. Watt‘s maneuver last year is an option; it would be interesting to see how the Raiders’ new regime handles that. A Waller trade would obviously hurt the Raiders’ chances to compete in a stacked AFC West. The Patriots included incentives to appease Gronk late in his New England tenure; would that be enough for Waller in 2022? However this plays out, the situation should produce more headlines before Week 1.
While most of the buzz around the NFL is related to the upcoming draft, a report recently surfaced regarding what would be another sizeable trade seeing a Pro Bowler on the move. Aaron Nagler of CheeseHead TV wrote earlier this week that the Packers and Raiders were in discussion on a trade involving tight end Darren Waller.
When referencing the report, ESPN’s Matt Miller added that Waller “was being shopped due to age and expected cost” previously (Twitter link). That would seem to open the door to Vegas dealing the 29-year-old, who has two years remaining on an extension he signed in 2019. He is due $6.25MM in each season, with slightly higher cap hits. None of that money is guaranteed, however.
A swap involving the Raiders and Packers would, of course, be the second notable one of the offseason. But it is in large part because of Vegas’ acquisition of Davante Adamsthat Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote “they have no desire to part ways with [Waller]”. The price – both in terms of draft capital and the financial commitment of a lucrative extension – the Raiders paid to add the ex-Packers star would indeed make any thought of moving Waller rather puzzling.
Bonsignore added that while Waller is on a below-market deal relative to his production (including two straight 1,100 yard seasons in 2019 and 2020), the team’s decisions on an extension or any possible trade if terms can’t be agreed upon “appear [to be] at least a year away”. Recently re-signed quarterback Derek Carradded (on Twitter) further rejection to the notion of Waller playing anywhere but in Vegas this upcoming season.
For what it’s worth, Waller doesn’t believe he’ll be moved. During an appearance on The Zach Gelb Show, the tight end said he was told by the organization that he’s staying put.
“They said that’s not a thing that’s happening and there’s no trade that’s going to happen,” Waller said (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Twitter).
The Raiders will be waiting until the third round of the draft to make their first selection, as a result of the Adams deal. In the meantime, this storyline could be one to watch during the weekend.
The Raiders have been without their top target since Thanksgiving. A leg injury and a positive COVID-19 test kept Darren Waller out of practice over the past five weeks, but the team received some positive news ahead of its likely do-or-die game in Week 18.
Waller was back at practice Wednesday. The Pro Bowl tight end worked out in a limited capacity, but this nevertheless represents progress. Despite Waller having not played since Week 12, the Raiders did not place him on IR. They opted to play it week-to-week, but this injury has taken some time to heal.
Expected to miss a slightly shorter period of time due to an IT band strain, Waller experienced upper-leg pain that slowed his return. The Raiders have gotten by with Foster Moreau at the tight end spot and have won their past three games to set up what will likely be a win-and-in game against the Chargers. Still, their offense certainly is not the same without Waller. Las Vegas has topped out at 23 points — against Indianapolis in Week 17 — in its five games with its two-time 1,000-yard target sidelined.
His extended absence notwithstanding, Waller remains second among Raiders with 53 catches for 643 yards this season. Hunter Renfrow has made a leap in his third year, topping 1,000 yards for the first time, but Henry Ruggs‘ departure is still affecting the Las Vegas offense. DeSean Jackson has eclipsed 50 yards in just one game since signing with the team in early November.
Players can return after five days, regardless of vaccination status, if they are asymptomatic. Waller is vaccinated, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore (on Twitter). Vaccinated NFLers who test positive can come back sooner, but that has been a high hurdle for most this season. Coupled with Waller’s IT band injury, his odds of playing against the Colts on Sunday are slim.
Waller has missed Las Vegas’ past four games. The IT band injury has caused pain in Waller’s upper leg during his rehab, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes. This has slowed his return. The Raiders never placed Waller on IR, indicating they hoped he could come back within three weeks. Instead, he is looking at a likely five-game absence.
While the team has rallied over the past two weeks to move to 8-7, aerial success has not come easy. Waller has 53 catches for 643 yards and two touchdowns this season.
After initial speculation that Darren Waller‘s season might be over due to the knee injury he sustained during the Raiders’ Thanksgiving Day win in Dallas, the team has received good news on its top pass-catching weapon.
Waller only suffered a strain to the IT band in his knee, according to Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network (on Twitter). Indeed, no major damage is believed to have occurred here, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler tweets.
Waller may need to miss some time to recover, though even this is not certain just yet. Even if Waller needs to sit next week, this update represents good news for a Las Vegas team hoping to have something to play for as this season winds down.
The former reclamation project is on pace for his third straight 1,000-yard season, and given the turmoil the Raiders have gone through this year, he serves as a key constant for the team going into a pivotal stretch. Waller has racked up 53 receptions this season, turning them into 643 yards and two touchdowns.
Before leaving Thursday’s game early, Waller had only missed one game this season — against Philadelphia in Week 7. He initially left his team’s Thanksgiving game with a back ailment but returned before ultimately being forced out because of his knee. The Raiders managed to win without notable Waller assistance, halting their three-game skid.
With Waller out, Las Vegas would stand to look to Foster Moreau and Daniel Helm to cover the tight end position. The Raiders will look forward to a speedy Waller recovery, as they sit one game back behind the division-leading Chiefs and a half-game back of the Chargers in the competitive AFC West.
October 5th, 2020 at 5:56pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
In response to the growing number of positive COVID-19 tests around the league, the NFL is taking action. In a call with all 32 teams the league office laid out a slew of new policy changes, and sternly warned teams about the consequences of not following them.
In the memo recapping the call, which you can read courtesy of this tweet from Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, they laid out some new protocols. The NFL and NFLPA jointly agreed to a “longer onboarding process” for free agent workouts, bans on gatherings outside the team facility, limits on the number of tryouts allowed per week, and the implementation of a “league-wide video monitoring system” to ensure teams are wearing masks and following protocols within their own buildings.
We just got word earlier that the Raiders had been fined $50K after an investigation into unauthorized locker room access, and the team and head coach Jon Gruden were fined hundreds of thousands for mask violations in Week 2.
Perhaps most significantly, the memo outlines potential extreme punishments for new violations. The memo says that any team that has a COVID-19 protocol violation which results in spreading of the virus that impacts scheduling or other teams may be subject to the loss of draft picks or potential forfeitures of games.
Forfeiting a game would be a truly nuclear option, and the fact that it was even broached shows how serious the league is taking threats to the rest of the season. That would seem to apply to a team like the Titans, which had a true outbreak which has caused the only actual postponement to date. The new free agent workout restrictions could make it harder for veterans on the market to find jobs. This surely isn’t the last we’ve heard on the subject, and we’ll keep you posted whenever anything new comes along.