In typical New York fashion, there has been a lot of drama and headlines surrounding the Jets recently. After firing general manager Mike Mccagnan, there were rumors and reports that defensive end Leonard Williams was on the trading block. Oakland was interested in drafting Williams, but is the team still in a position to bring him in?
Before the 2015 NFL draft, Amari Cooper and Leonard Williams appeared to be the Raiders top options with the fourth pick. Oakland drafted the former, but now it appears the team can reverse that decision by trading for the latter. Below, I take a look at a handful of factors that will help answer the question raised in the headline.
This season, Williams will be playing under the fifth year option of his rookie contract, which carries a salary cap hit of $14.2 million. The Raiders currently have $29 million in cap space, so the team can afford to take on Williams’ contract. Being classified as a 3-4 defensive end/4-3 defensive tackle, Williams finds himself in the situation Steelers defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt was a couple years ago. Pittsburgh and Tuitt agreed on a contract extension with a $13.6 million cap hit per year over the next three seasons.
While Tuitt has put together a slightly better career than Williams, the Raiders can expect any contract extension with the Jets defensive lineman to be around the $14 million per year mark. That’s just how free agency works. One player sets the market and the next player whose contract is up and has similar abilities resets the market. Oakland projects to have $58 million in cap space for 2020, so his salary shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but it would make Williams the highest paid defensive player on the roster (in terms of money per year). While he is good and young, I don’t think he is worthy of being the team’s highest paid defensive player. That could be a dangerous precedent to set.
Although the Raiders can use help on its defensive line, the team needs more help on the edge than it does on the interior. As mentioned above, Williams would likely play defensive tackle in the their 4-3 defensive system. If he were to be acquired by the team, he would be competing for playing time with second year players Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall.
Hurst was one of the few bright spots on the Raiders defense last season and Hall showed promise while battling injuries. Out of all three players, Williams is the best right now, but trading for him might be a questionable decision after drafting two defensive tackles a year ago. If Oakland really wants to bring the veteran in, it might make sense for the trade to include Hall.
Even with the offseason the team has put together, the likelihood the Raiders will be a Super Bowl contender in 2019 is low. Thus, with any trade or acquisition for that matter, the team needs to evaluate how the player in question fits into the team’s future plans. Given Williams’ age and ability, he would certainly fit into Oakland’s future plans.
He turns 25 years old in June and has been productive in his young career with 17 sacks and 32 tackles for loss. If the Raiders acquired him, their defensive line heading into the 2020 season would feature Williams, Hurst, Clelin Ferrell, and Arden Key. That’s a young line that most teams wouldn’t want to play against.
Ultimately Oakland needs to be price sensitive when negotiating a trade for Williams. Between his price tag and the Raiders depth at defensive tackle, general manager Mike Mayock shouldn’t feel a pressing need to trade for him.
After the Khalil Mack trade, Oakland finds themselves with two first round, two third round and no second round picks in the 2020 draft. If the Jets are looking for either of the Raiders first two picks in return for Williams, Mayock should just hang up the phone and go back to scouting next years’ prospects. In my opinion, the most the team should give up for the veteran is one of their third round picks. The ideal trade situation for the Raiders would be to send a player like P.J. Hall and a fourth-round pick for the Jets defensive lineman. That would give the Raiders a young talented contributors without overcrowding a position on the roster.
Who knows what other teams are offering the Jets, but I am curious to see what you guys think. Comment below with the trade you would like to see for Leonard Williams or state why you want the Raiders to stay away!