Darren Waller is a veritable freak of nature. He’s 6’6, 250 pounds and he runs like a wide receiver. He can outjump just about anybody, and more often than not, comes down with the 50/50 ball. As far as pure athletic ability is concerned, there’s nobody else in the world like #83. During the darker days of Jon Gruden’s second run as the Silver and Black’s head coach, Waller was the lone bright spot.
However, he’s nearing the end of a contract that was so team-friendly, it’s disrespectful, and as his 30th birthday approaches, Waller knows he’s really only going to get the one big contract. And coming off an underwhelming season hindered by injuries, if the rumors about the Packers potentially sending a first round pick to Las Vegas for the star tight end are true… the team should listen carefully.
The Las Vegas Raiders Should Trade Darren Waller… For the Right Price
The Right Price
Before Raider Nation comes for my head, I’m telling you now that I mean “the right price.” I’m not saying a third round pick or later, I’m not saying a serviceable starter, I mean the Raiders should be open to trading Darren Waller if someone comes calling with a crazy offer.
The hot rumor right now is that the Green Bay Packers are the ones calling Las Vegas with an offer, and based on the highway robbery Dave Ziegler already pulled off with the Davante Adams trade, it’s not unreasonable to speculate if lightning could strike twice.
The Packers need to win now. They gave Aaron Rodgers all the money in the world, but they immediately traded away his best weapon. Darren Waller could be a big part of revamping Green Bay’s offense, and they have two first round picks because that’s what the Raiders gave up for Adams. If the Packers offered their own first (28th overall), I think the Raiders should absolutely take it.
And here’s why.
Darren Waller is easily a top five tight end in the NFL, and he’s not number five. Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Mark Andrews are the only tight ends in the league on his level. Few players, if any, have Waller’s unique combination of size, speed, and skill. He’s truly a rare and dynamic playmaker.
However, he is still a tight end. Tight ends are rarely taken in the first round, with only 25 going on night one in the last 21 drafts. Tight ends have been involved in picks with first round picks, but nobody has ever sent a first round pick for a tight end exclusively. Despite having similar roles, tight ends just don’t have the market value that wide receivers do, even when they’re basically receivers themselves, like Waller.
Foster Moreau isn’t a world-beater. He’s not a top ten tight end, and even three years in, he still makes some goofy mental errors. But he’s also proven to be capable in moments, especially in the redzone. He’s not in the same neighborhood as Waller, but if the Raiders got a first round pick for #83 and took someone like Ohio State’s Chris Olave? It would create opportunities for everyone to thrive.
The thing that some people don’t want to talk about here? There’s every chance that Darren Waller holds out. Darren Waller will turn 30 early in the 2022 season, and he will make $13,843,750 over the last two years of his contract. That’s less than the AAV of George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Dallas Goedert, and Mark Andrews… for one season. As far as cash in pocket is concerned, Waller is bringing home the 14th most in the league in 2022, behind guys like C.J. Uzomah, Evan Engram, Hunter Henry, Taysom Hill, and Will Dissly.
If Waller has another season like last year, he’ll enter a contract season with no leverage. A 32 year old tight end with two good seasons under his belt can’t demand as much as he could right now. Waller is one bad injury away from retiring with a fraction of the money he probably deserves. If I were Darren Waller’s agent, I wouldn’t let him suit up without a new contract.
It’s a lot easier to get a good return on an investment when you’re trading a player that isn’t demanding a trade. Just look at the dumpster fire in Cleveland surrounding Baker Mayfield. Obviously the Browns aren’t going to pay Baker, and Baker likely wouldn’t show up anyway, so they have no leverage in trade negotiations. Some teams are literally waiting to see if the Browns just cut him. The same league where a team traded a first round pick for Sam Bradford would see a former first overall pick released less than two years after appearing in the AFC Championship game.
The “Hunter Renfrow” of It All
Darren Waller isn’t the only underpaid Raider receiver on that offense. The best slot receiver in football is also coming up on a payday, and the Raiders absolutely can’t let him leave in free agency. When Henry Ruggs III was arrested, Waller was hurt, and Bryan Edwards struggled to fill the void, Renfrow stepped up as the team’s number one receiver. Despite being “just a slot guy,” he became the player that opposing defenses had to focus on in the clutch, and he still came up huge.
The Raiders paid Derek Carr, Davante Adams, Maxx Crosby, and Chandler Jones. They’re trying to build a championship team, and eventually, someone’s gonna be a cap casualty. Eventually, the Raiders are going to have to lose a good player to keep the guys they’ve got. Can the Raiders really afford to keep both guys? Because if push comes to shove, Renfrow is younger, and plays a much more significant position.
Maybe his status as a slot guy would’ve been enough to get the Raiders a discount once upon a time, but the Jacksonville Jaguars handed out a 4-year, $72 million deal to Christian Kirk, who has as many career 1,000 yard seasons as I do. The idea that Renfrow won’t make similar, if not more money is wishful thinking.
The Bottom Line
I love the idea of Davante Adams, Darren Waller, and Hunter Renfrow. I think it creates a world where whoever the other wide receiver is never gets double-teamed and Derek Carr has a career year. I think it takes pressure off the offensive line and allows the running game to blossom. At the very least, it makes me unstoppable in Madden for a season.
But if the Green Bay Packers, or any other team, really, come along and offer a first round pick for a 30 year old tight end? With the short and long term future of the franchise in mind, I think the Raiders would absolutely have to say yes.