Derek Carr and the Raiders offense will be getting some significant reinforcement. The Raiders have activated tight end Darren Waller and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow from injured reserve, reports ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter).
Waller hasn’t seen the field since October but it took the front office a month to finally place him on IR, delaying his required four-game absence. After two-straight 1,000-yard campaigns in 2019 and 2020, Waller was limited to 665 receiving yards in 11 games in 2021. His hamstring injury has limited him to only five appearances in 2022, with the former Pro Bowler hauling in 16 receptions for 175 yards and one score. Waller inked a three-year, $51MM extension with the Raiders back in September.
Renfrow has dealt with a handful of injuries in 2022, limiting him to 21 receptions in six games before being sidelined. The 26-year-old was coming off a breakout campaign in 2021 that saw him haul in 103 receptions en route to a Pro Bowl nod. The wideout inked a $32MM deal with the organization during the offseason.
Without Waller and Renfrow in the lineup, the Raiders have been leaning heavily on Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs, with both players having already topped 1,000 yards from scrimmage. The Raiders second-leading receiver this season has been Mack Hollins, who has hauled in 47 catches for 588 yards and three touchdowns.
The Raiders made a handful of additional moves as they prepare for tomorrow’s game against the Patriots. Las Vegas promoted offensive linemen SebastianGutierrez and JordanMeredith to the active roster. To make room for today’s transaction, the Raiders cut wide receiver DJ Turner and tight end Jacob Hollister.
Reinforcements are on the way for the Raiders on offense. Vegas has designated both tight end Darren Wallerand wide receiver Hunter Renfrowto return from IR (Twitter link via ESPN’s Adam Schefter).
Waller has been out since mid-October, but it was not until one month after his most recent game played that the Raiders placed him on IR. A lingering hamstring injury has limited the Pro Bowler to just five contests in 2022, putting a significant dent in the team’s potential in the passing game. It also marked an unwanted beginning to his time after signing a three-year, $51MM extension in September.
Negotiations over a new deal dominated the summer, one in which the Raiders finalized a number of big-money contracts. Waller established himself as a preeminent tight end during the 2019 and 2020 campaigns, eclipsing 1,100 yards each year. Injuries limited him to 11 contests in 2021, however, and this season has obviously not gone according to plan. A return to the field, if not to his dominant form, could do wonders for the 30-year-old individually, and the Raiders’ offense as a whole.
Given the fact that Renfrow was placed on IR on the same day as Waller, it comes as little surprise that the pair are returning to practice simultaneously. The slot receiver was shut down while dealing with a myriad of injuries, and has suited up for six total games over the course of the season. His summer also included contract talks, and ended in a $32MM deal which came off the back of his Pro Bowl campaign in 2021. That, coupled with the addition of Davante Adams, led to significant expectations for the Raiders’ pass-catchers.
The team ranks just 12th in the league with an average of 246 passing yards per game, however, a sign of the inconsistency which has helped lead to a disappointing 5-8 record. Part of their middling performance can be attributed, of course, to the absence of Waller and Renfrow. Their return in the near future will help Vegas in their attempt to generate momentum at the end of the season, and leave the team with two IR activations available to be used.
Thanks to hindsight, we’ll occasionally find that some of the NFL’s best transactions initially went under the radar. That was the case on this date in 2018, when the Raiders signed a little-known tight end/wide receiver off the Ravens’ practice squad. Fast forward to today, and that tight end is one of the highest-paid players at his position.
On November 26, 2018, the Raiders added tight end Darren Waller off the Ravens’ practice squad.
The 2015 sixth-round pick didn’t make a whole lot of noise during his first three-plus seasons in the NFL. Baltimore initially had Waller playing as a wide receiver, and the Georgia Tech product had 12 receptions through his first two years in the league. After being slapped with a four-game suspension in 2016, Waller was hit with a full-season ban in 2017 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
That suspension proved to be the nail in the coffin for the wideout/tight end in Baltimore. After sitting out the 2017 campaign, he was cut at the end of the 2018 preseason. He later caught on with Baltimore’s practice squad, which where he spent the first chunk of the season. With rookies Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews and veteran Maxx Williams firmly above Waller on the depth chart, it didn’t seem like the now-pass-catching TE had much of a future in Baltimore.
Then, on November 26, the Raiders came calling. The Raiders didn’t necessarily need a TE but believed in Waller’s pass-catching ability and immediately gave him a spot on the active roster. The tight end has six catches in four games while playing behind Pro Bowler Jared Cook.
The organization’s gamble worked out. Waller exploded in 2019 with Cook out of the picture, finishing the campaign with 90 receptions for 1,145 yards and three touchdowns. He followed that up with an even better season in 2020, as Waller earned his first Pro Bowl nod after finishing with 107 catches for 1,196 yards and nine scores. 2021 was a bit of a disappointment for the tight end; he was limited to only 11 games while hauling in 55 catches for 665 yards.
Still, the Raiders were clearly convinced that Waller’s 2019/2020 performances were sustainable, and they inked him to a three-year, $51MM extension this past offseason, making him the highest-paid tight end in the NFL in terms of average annual value. The 30-year-old is currently on injured reserve, and in five games this year, he’s collected only 16 catches. Considering the mounting absences and declining production, there have been some whispers that the Raiders are growing frustrated with the star.
Still, even if the Raiders grow to regret the extension they gave to Waller, there’s no denying the brilliance of the move they made on this date four years ago today.
November 14th, 2022 at 11:00pm CST by Sam Robinson
Darren Waller emerged after four seasons off the NFL radar to become the Raiders’ centerpiece pass catcher, taking over after the franchise’s Antonio Brown– and Tyrell Williams-dependent plan failed. Waller has since signed two Raiders extensions. This season, however, has not featured much production or availability from the former comeback story.
Effort, or lack thereof, to return from this injury has created this wedge between the recently extended tight end and the team. An injury to his other hamstring during training camp — viewed by some as a hold-in measure amid contract talks — led to a prolonged absence. Waller, 30, returned in time for Week 1 but missed three full games prior to being placed on IR.
Other players have seen hamstring injuries flare up this season — most notably Keenan Allen, whose injury against the Raiders in Week 1 has led to the veteran Charger missing most of the year — and it is a bit premature to accuse Waller of not doing what it takes to return in time. But this Raiders season has skidded well off track; tension is mounting.
“Some of the things that a lot of us try to do just to practice, what we put our bodies through just to sleep at night, and for that to be the result of all that effort? It pisses me off,” Derek Carr said following the Raiders’ loss to the Colts, via The Athletic’s Vic Tafur. “It pisses a lot of guys off. It’s hard knowing what some guys are doing — like I said — just to practice, what they’re putting in their body just to sleep at night just so we can be there for each other, and I wish everybody in that room felt the same way about this place.”
Hammering this point home, Davante Adams also said not enough players are “fully bought in.” Neither player named Waller nor singled out anyone else. But the Raiders’ two highest-paid performers citing teammates for insufficient effort is obviously noteworthy. The Raiders are in the early stages of their Josh McDaniels–Dave Ziegler retooling effort. Attempting to quiet any McDaniels one-and-done rumors, Mark Davissaid he is committed to his coach for 2023.
Waller’s three-year, $51MM deal — agreed to in September after the two-time 1,000-yard pass catcher had slipped nearly out of the top 20 for AAV at his position — tops the tight end market. But the contract included only $19.25MM fully guaranteed (ninth among tight ends). Waller’s new years do not begin until 2024, but the rest of his guarantees pay out by 2023. That gives the Raiders more flexibility than is usually afforded so soon into a top-market deal. Las Vegas has seen its top three pass catchers — Adams, Waller and Hunter Renfrow — play all of 62 snaps together this season, contributing to the team’s 2-7 record. Neither Renfrow nor Waller has fared well since signing their respective extensions.
It is too early to speculate on Waller’s place with the team beyond 2022, but the former Ravens draftee did well to secure more in guarantees before the hamstring injury dropped his value. A knee injury cost Waller a chunk of last season. If he comes off IR when first eligible (Week 14), Waller will have missed 13 games over the past two years. It will be interesting to see if Waller can return at that point and build some momentum for next season.
November 10th, 2022 at 12:03pm CST by Sam Robinson
Darren Waller‘s absence will now be extended into December. The Raiders’ Pro Bowl tight end is heading to IR, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter).
Waller is believed to have aggravated his hamstring injury, per Schefter. The veteran pass catcher has practiced in a limited capacity recently but has not played since Week 5. This will give Waller more time to heal while obviously hurting a Raiders passing attack that has been inconsistent despite forming a Waller-Davante Adams–Hunter Renfrow trio.
The converted wide receiver initially suffered the injury during the first quarter of the Raiders’ shootout loss to the Chiefs. After Las Vegas’ Week 6 bye, Waller went into the past two Sundays as a candidate to suit up. The Raiders did not rule him out until gameday in both cases. The IR move provides clarity but will leave a 2-6 team without its top tight end until at least Week 14.
This news makes Waller and Drew Rosenhaus’ push to secure a late-summer extension more important. After ranking outside the top 15 in tight end contracts entering September, Waller signed a three-year, $51MM deal. The new contract came with $22MM guaranteed; $19MM of that is fully guaranteed. Had Waller opted to bet on himself, this injury-altered season would have certainly reduced his value.
The Raiders have Waller, 30 signed through 2026 at the NFL’s highest tight end AAV figure. While Waller’s guarantee figures fall outside the top five at the position, the team has still invested plenty in the Jon Gruden-era reclamation project. Waller’s unavailability has undoubtedly affected the Raiders’ aerial attack, which has struggled to see Renfrow reprise his previous form. The Raiders extended Renfrow (two years, $32MM) this offseason as well, pairing him with Adams’ $28MM-per-year megadeal.
This represents Waller’s second straight injury-limited season. A knee injury cost him time in 2021, complicating his quest for a second Raiders extension. Thursday’s news ensures Waller will have missed at least 13 games over the past two seasons. This stretch has blunted the talented performer’s momentum. He came into the season as one of just eight tight ends to have multiple 1,100-yard seasons. Waller accomplished this while being the Raiders’ top aerial weapon, taking over that role after the franchise’s Antonio Brown bet became a spectacular bust.
Foster Moreau will continue to serve as Vegas’ starting tight end in Waller’s absence. Waller has totaled 16 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown on the season. Moreau also has amassed 175 yards this year, on 17 catches. In six games, Renfrow has still not surpassed 200 receiving yards.
Waller, 30, signed a three-year, $51MM extension with the Raiders in September, but he is dealing with serious injury issues for the second straight season. The 2020 Pro Bowler was limited to 11 games in 2021, and he is expected to miss his third consecutive game on Sunday as a result of a hamstring ailment. Plus, after catching 10 balls for 129 yards and a score in the first two games of the 2022 campaign, he was limited to six catches for 46 yards in the next two contests. He played just eight snaps in Week 5 before injuring his hamstring.
Still, a healthy Waller is one of the game’s better receiving tight ends, and assuming he gets back to full strength soon, he would have been a nice weapon for a Packers offense that is just outside the bottom-10 in passing yards per game. Part of that disappointing ranking is due to a rash of injury problems that have impacted the club’s pass-catching contingent; Allen Lazard missed Green Bay’s Week 8 loss to the Bills due to a shoulder injury, Randall Cobb is on IR with an ankle injury, Sammy Watkins has missed time with hamstring troubles of his own, and Christian Watson exited the Buffalo game with a concussion. Injecting another player with health concerns into that mix might have been something of a risk, but GM Brian Gutekunst was clearly hoping a bold move might save Green Bay’s season.
Indeed, while Claypool was, according to Schefter, Gutekunst’s “primary focus,” the team also called the Panthers to discuss D.J. Moore, per Rapoport and Pelissero (though Schefter says the Packers were not interested in Texans receiver Brandin Cooks). Carolina, which rebuffed a massive offer for DE Brian Burns, also turned away the Moore inquiries, even though Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reports the Packers were willing to deal a first-round pick (via Marcus Mosher of Pro Football Focus on Twitter). Schefter adds that, in an effort to close a Claypool trade, the Packers added a late-round pick to the second-rounder it was prepared to send to the Steelers, but apparently Pittsburgh valued Chicago’s Round 2 choice over Green Bay’s two-pick proposal.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who could be in the midst of his final season, publicly expressed his appreciation for the front office’s efforts. “The compensation for whatever players we were going after just didn’t make sense,” Rodgers said. “So I trust [Gutekunst]. We had some good conversations. We were in on some things. It just didn’t pan out.”
Meanwhile, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk believes the ESPN and NFL.com reports, which were both published early Sunday morning, were based on leaks from the team designed specifically to appease Rodgers, and that the Green Bay front office did not actually want to make a deal. Regardless of the veracity of that claim, the end result is the same: if the 3-5 Packers are to salvage what could be Rodgers’ last stand, their existing talent will need to get healthy and turn things around in a hurry, as the only receiving help they can add at this point is free agent Odell Beckham Jr.
As an interesting aside, this is the second time this year the Packers and Raiders have discussed Waller, who was part of the talks that culminated in the blockbuster Davante Adamstrade in March.
September 11th, 2022 at 11:52am CST by Adam La Rose
SEPTEMBER 11: Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network offers some insight on Waller’s new deal (Twitter link). Waller will earn roughly $10MM more over the next two years than he would have under his old contract, which jibes with OverTheCap.com’s breakdown. Per OTC, Waller will earn $11MM in base pay in 2022 and ’23, a $4MM raise over the $7MM payouts he was previously scheduled to take home in those two seasons. Combine that base salary with the $1.275MM in per-game roster bonuses that Waller can earn, and we arrive at the $10MM increase that Pelissero references.
The new contract also comes with $250K Pro Bowl incentives in each year of the deal.
SEPTEMBER 10: The long-anticipated new deal between the Raiders and tight end Darren Wallerhas been finalized. Waller is signing a three-year extension which includes $51MM in new money, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). The team has since confirmed the deal.
The Pro Bowler had two years remaining on his existing deal, but for months has been considered a prime extension candidate. He was set to earn $7MM in non-guaranteed money this season and next, and will likely now have considerable security. In all, he is tied to the Raiders for the next five years at a total cost of $66.25MM.
That $13.25MM-per-year overall average will move Waller into sixth in the league in terms of overall compensation at the position. The tight end market was altered this offseason by David Njoku‘s deal with the Browns, one which Waller was expected to eclipse in value. His age (30 next week) and injury history, on the other hand, represented a potential disincentive on the Raiders’ part to make a commitment such as this.
The possibility of Las Vegas – now led by general manager Dave Ziegler – waiting one more year to finalize an extension seemed quite real earlier this summer. That would have come as a notable decision, given the team’s substantial investments made earlier this offseason in Derek Carr, Davante Adamsand Hunter Renfrow. Things began to change once Waller took steps to accelerate the negotiating process.
The former sixth-rounder changed agents recently, taking on Drew Rosenhaus as his new representative. Not long after that move, it was reported that an extension could be just days away. Now, on the eve of the season, both sides have indeed finished this important business.
“This was one of the most challenging negotiations I’ve encountered,” Rosenhaus said. “It is very rare for a 30-year old player with two years left on his contract to get a new deal” (Twitter link via Schefter).
With his long-term future no longer in doubt, Waller will look to return to his 1,000-yard form after being limited to 11 contests in 2021. He will face significant competition for targets after the arrival of Adams, but he has shown himself capable of being the focal point of the Raiders’ passing attack. The former Raven has gone from a failed receiving prospect met with multiple suspensions — one for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, one for violating the PED policy — to one of the league’s highest-paid tight ends.
Darren Waller‘s contract issue has moved closer to the forefront recently. The Pro Bowl Raiders tight end changed agencies and returned to practice, ending multiweek stretch of inactivity. A contract resolution could follow.
The Raiders and Waller are believed to be moving closer to an extension agreement, one the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore notes could be finalized this week (Twitter link). Waller is tied to a 2022 base salary of $6.25MM; that amount becomes guaranteed shortly before the Raiders’ Week 1 game against the Chargers. Two seasons remain on his contract.
Now with Drew Rosenhaus, Waller switching agents appeared to signal he was not fine with tabling contract talks to 2023 — the final year of his current Raiders deal. The Raiders potentially waiting a year to address Waller’s below-market deal emerged as viable scenario earlier this summer. Considering where Waller’s contract has fallen among tight ends since he signed it in 2019, it is unsurprising the matter became a bigger issue ahead of Week 1.
“Whether it goes one way or it doesn’t, I’ll be playing football,” Waller said, via Bonsignore, of extension talks. “There’s not really a lot of things I can control. I have faith in my representation.”
A $16MM-per-year price is believed to have come up during Waller’s negotiations this year. That should not surprise, given Waller’s contributions to the Raiders and Renfrow having agreed to a $16MM-AAV extension earlier this year. The free agency deals less productive tight ends Will Dissly, C.J. Uzomah and Logan Thomas signed earlier this year bumped Waller’s $7.6MM-per-year accord down to 17th among tight end AAV.
Waller joins Travis Kelceand George Kittle as the only active tight ends with two 1,000-yard seasons on their resumes. This year’s receiver-market boom has left tight ends as a whole undervalued, but Kelce and Kittle (tied to a market-topping $15MM average salary) have already cashed in. Waller, who is going into his fourth Raiders season, has not. At least, not on the level his top contemporaries have.
As for Waller’s status for the Raiders’ Week 1 game against the Chargers, he confirmed he will be available. Waller missed much of training camp with a hamstring injury — a malady some connected to a potential hold-in effort — but he said the early-camp injury issue was legitimate. Waller missed six games last season, mostly due to an ankle injury.
Back in June of 2021, Ravens offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James filed a grievance against the Broncos seeking $15MM consisting of his 2021 and 2022 salaries of $10MM and $5MM, respectively. James has reportedly settled with his former team and will receive $1.09MM, according to Charean Williams of NBC Sports.
The grievance stems from a torn Achilles that James suffered while working out away from the Broncos’ facility during the 2021 offseason. He missed out on a $9.85MM guaranteed salary that Denver claimed was only guaranteed for injuries sustained at the team facility.
James has not played since the injury and is currently listed as the backup to Baltimore’s starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Ravens fans are hoping not to have to see James come in, but, historically, Stanley has only played in two games since signing a contract extension in October of 2020.
Here are a few more rumors from the AFC West, starting with two rumors out of Sin City:
Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels told reporters that star tight end Darren Wallerreturned to practice today, according to Paul Gutierrez of ESPN. Waller had missed six practices since mid-August due to a hamstring injury. Adding Waller back to the mix gives Las Vegas a dangerous array of pass catchers with Waller and receivers Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow.
The Broncos surprised quite a few when punter Sam Martin failed to make their initial 53-man roster. Instead, Denver will move forward with former-Steelers punter Corliss Waitman. General manager George Paton attempted to defend the cut by telling reporters that the move was not a reflection of contracts but one of abilities, according to Troy Renck of Denver 7. Martin has been a starting punter since being drafted in the league back in 2013 by the Lions. He had signed a three-year, $7.05MM contract to join the Broncos and was headed into the final year of the deal set to make $2.25MM. Martin reportedly refused to take a pay cut for the 2022 season and Denver now will rely on the leg of Waitman, who holds an $825K cap hit. According to Paton, though, the $1.4MM cap room cleared by cutting Martin had nothing to do with it. Also according to Paton, Waitman, who has two games of NFL play under his belt, simply beat out the veteran kicker with 139 games of NFL experience. Broncos fans will get to judge for themselves when they see Waitman’s regular season debut in a Broncos uniform in Seattle on Monday Night Football.
Although the prospect of the Raiders tabling an extension to 2023 surfaced during the offseason, Darren Waller is now with Drew Rosenhaus. The powerful agent said the plan is to hammer out a deal as soon as possible, via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter).
After leaving Klutch Sports recently, Waller signed with Rosenhaus on Wednesday. This notable representation switch could push this matter to a front-burner item for the Raiders, who have already done a few big-ticket extensions this offseason. Waller’s current contract has been out of step with his value for a while; the Pro Bowl tight end appears to be taking action.
A $16MM-per-year contract has been floated during Waller’s talks with the Raiders, though extension conversations are not believed to have progressed too far. Two years remain on Waller’s current contract, one that has — in terms of AAV — dropped to 17th among tight ends. The veteran pass catcher is tied to $6.25MM base salaries in 2022 and 2023.
Despite changing regimes this offseason, the Raiders paid Derek Carr, Hunter Renfrow and Maxx Crosby. Renfrow is now tied to a $16MM-per-year deal — more than double Waller’s $7.6MM-AAV accord. Waller signed his deal back in 2019, when he was in the process of crafting a belated breakout after substance-abuse issues nearly derailed his career. But the tight end market has changed considerably since then, with George Kittle and Travis Kelce pushing it past $14MM on average. Kittle’s $15MM-per-year deal tops the market.
It is understandable why Waller would not want to wait until 2023 for a new deal to come to pass. After trading away Amari Cooper and seeing their Antonio Brown deal combust before the mercurial superstar played a game in Oakland, the Raiders relied on Waller for years. The Jon Gruden-era reclamation project rewarded the team by producing back-to-back 1,100-yard receiving seasons — a feat few tight ends in NFL history have accomplished. Far less acclaimed tight ends have passed him on the market, with David Njoku‘s $13.7MM-AAV Browns deal being the most glaring example.
Waller will also turn 30 in September and is coming off a season in which an ankle injury forced him to miss extensive time down the stretch. With Waller dealing with a hamstring malady now, the Raiders could also exercise caution and force him to prove his value in a new offense. It will be interesting to see how the parties proceed here, as this now appears to be an issue that will not wait until 2023.