The Las Vegas Raiders signed tight end Darren Waller to a contract extension in 2019. Even though he was barely showing flashes of what he can do, the organization didn’t wait to lock him up. Looking back, it was a great deal for the team and arguably, a bargain.
The Raiders signed Waller away from the Baltimore Ravens practice squad back in 2018. Although he had always had the aptitude, he hadn’t been able to uncover it. Last season, he turned his potential into production for the Raiders, which led to a contract extension. Tom Pelissero of NFL Media was the one that broke the news.
The #Raiders are signing their breakout TE Darren Waller to a contract extension through 2023, source said. Instead of being a restricted free agent in March (and potentially staring at a franchise tag after that), Waller gets his payday now. ðŸ’°
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) October 17, 2019
When the Raiders offered the four-year $29.8 million extension to Waller, only five games of the season had been played. The tight end could’ve had a five-week streak of good luck. Nevertheless, he kept playing well enough to validate his new deal. All in all, he finished the 2019 season with 90 catches for 1.145 yards and three touchdowns.
The Raiders Got a Bargain In Retrospect
Recently, Bleacher Report released a list of every NFL team’s most friendly deals. For the Raiders, it was 2019 rookie Maxx Crosby, and for most organizations, their best player was a rookie too. Had they looked at the whole roster and not only rookies, the results of the ranking might’ve been different. At least that’s the case for Las Vegas.
While $29.8 million is nothing to scoff at, Waller’s deal pales in comparison to the ones top echelon players at his position have. Looking at the biggest tight end contracts, Waller is ranked ninth per Over the Cap. When it comes to yearly average, Hunter Henry tops the list, but he is under the franchise tag. All the other players on the list have at least a two-years pact, and all of them will have a higher salary than Waller.
Second in the list is Austin Cooper and Travis Kelce comes in third. Kyle Rudolph is next and Rob Gronkowski and Zach Ertz take the fifth and sixth place respectively. Jimmy Graham lies at seven and Jared Cook is just before Waller. While Kelce, Ertz, and Gronkowski are better than Waller, the same can’t be said about Graham and Cooper. That’s not to say they don’t deserve their salary, all players are worth what a team is willing to pay them. What it means is that Waller is one of the best tight ends in the league, but the one with the lowest salary when compared to his numbers. That’s what makes the Raiders’ investment in him great in retrospect.
The Raiders have done a great job at managing their salary cap in the last few years. That has allowed them to bring in different playmakers. Darren Waller is the quintessential example of it.
You May Also Like:Â Current State of Quarterback Deals in the AFC West
Top Photo: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images