The Las Vegas Raiders agreed to a two-year deal with defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. A moment that should give fans a reason to cheer took a 180-degree turn when the team made the decision to release center Rodney Hudson. Even in the aftermath, the decision to part ways with the Second-Team All-Pro doesn’t make sense.
Dear Jon Gruden,
With all due respect, are you trying to one-up Art Shell? His second stint wasn’t too hot either.
There is no sugar-coating, softening, or silver lining, the Raiders are in trouble. Releasing Hudson raises a lot of questions and some pretty grim answers.
Make no mistake though, this move matters. In fact, the reason it happened will determine the kind of tide Gruden will be swimming against for the rest of his ten-year contract (if he makes it that far). Raiders fans are justifiably livid and it’s probably worse than it appears on the surface.
If there’s a master plan, you’ve lost the benefit of the doubt, so why did you do it?
Trying to make sense of the decision to release Hudson
4. Cutting Hudson to save cap room
Cutting Hudson won’t help the Raiders save cash in 2021, they’ll actually lose money with an immediate dead cap hit. The savings come when you weigh cutting him now against a future release. You’re still losing $15.6 million in dead money at a time when the cap floor is deflated.
Did the commissioner call you up on the Corona Hotline and tell you to release one of your best players? You do know there are other players on the roster right? You picked the best pass blocking center in the NFL since 2015.
Let’s assume this is a cap savings move, there weren’t ten other players on the roster the Raiders could have cut first? Marcus Mariota? Cory Littleton? Hell, Nick Kwiatkoski? Anyone but one of the highest graded centers in the NFL. Especially considering the release of Gabe Jackson, Richie Incognito, and the trade of Trent Brown.
The center is the quarterback of the offensive line, and you just opted for a backup. Moreover, you ran a “QB camp,” Jon, maybe they could have told you the importance of a good center.
2. Cutting Hudson to Save Pure Cash
It’s no secret that the Raiders have been short for cash in recent years. While the move to Las Vegas and a brand new stadium was supposed to bring in revenue, COVID had something to say about fans in the stands during the 2020 season.
Did this decline in revenue, paired with a smaller salary cap, resulting in a cash shortage for the Raiders? Jerry McDonald of Mercury News thinks so. If this is true, you can forget any semblance of a talented team in the Mark Davis era.
The NFL is a billionaire’s club and you won’t get very far pinching pennies at P.F. Chang’s. Therefore, the international mystique of the Raiders is hard to maintain when you spend like the Charlotte Bobcats.
3. Cutting Hudson to install a young player
Instead of pure savings, let’s say the Raiders did this to make way for a younger player, expensive aging vets will take a backseat to fresh blood. Do you know what that is called?
Here’s the snag: They’ve been rebuilding since 2018. We saw this purge of expensive talent in Gruden’s first year. Amari Cooper exchanged for picks and Khalil Mack was traded to avoid a huge contract. At the time it was necessary.
We clearly were not winning the Super Bowl any time soon.
Fast forward four years and it becomes easy to see how this might be worrying. They were supposed to be rebuilt by now. The project was supposed to be complete. They’ve now traded Trent Brown, cut Hudson, cut Tyrell Williams, released Mr. Big Chest, and cut Gabe Jackson, all replaced by cheaper options.
If this is truly the reason, Raider fans could be in for another four-year stretch of moves chasing a title that might never materialize. A ten-year contract doesn’t mean you take all ten years to have one winning season.
Former Raiders aren’t taking kindly to this approach, Jonathan Feliciano retweeted this comment:
Man old raider players really donâ€™t f with Gruden lol ðŸ˜‚ https://t.co/svP0xcQ0dV
— Thomas Beebe ãƒ„ (@Mr_Beebe) March 16, 2021
We understood in 2018. However, you only get one shot at a clean slate rebuild, do you need to wipe the slate clean two times? That’s the recipe for cyclical mediocrity.
4. Cutting Hudson because he asked for it
There have been whispers that Rodney Hudson requested his release and the Raiders obliged him. Sure, Las Vegas is doing him a favor by granting him the opportunity to test the free-agent market and get a great deal. Great deal right?
That would be the worst reason of all.
Rodney Hudson was well paid. He enjoyed a decent offense to play in and even had the opportunity to win. What do you call a team that cannot keep their proven talent?
Dumpster fire? Sinking ship? Perennial loser? The Cleveland Browns? No, the Browns are actually winning games.
It’s moderately depressing to know that even if you manage to land a great player in the draft or free agency they will ultimately end up wanting out before you have a chance to reach the playoffs. Even if you salvage the offseason with a home run like Deshaun Watson; he’s leaving the Texans for the same reason all the Raiders want out.
It’s worth listening to current Raider’s opinion, even if they’re not direct:
Iâ€™m ready for the McDonaldâ€™s diet big bro @ochocinco fðŸ¤ it
— Treyway Mullen (@MullenIsland1) March 16, 2021
Gruden said he was into nightmares. Somebody wake Raider Nation up, please.
What’s Next for the Raiders?
This is not about trashing the young guns. Maybe Andre James and John Simpson step up and lead a dominant offensive line. They might even work their way into top-10 consideration at their position.
Then they will be released or traded before we get a chance to make a title run. Even the best-case scenario ends in tragedy.
The unpredictability of this move shakes up what might be possible for the Raiders in 2021 and beyond. If Hudson was not safe, who is? Darren Waller just signed an extension, but wouldn’t a young tight end on a rookie deal be so much cheaper? Oh wait, they have one. He sat on the bench watching Jason Witten scoop up four-yard passes.
This all sounds crazy. Also, in Gruden’s world, you’re always one step away from being an ex-Raider.
Knock on wood if you’re with me.
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Top Photo: Hannah Foslien Getty Images