Did the Las Vegas Raiders make the right call in staying put and not reaching for a 32-year-old wide receiver?
The Julio Jones sweepstakes are finally over; the eventual Hall of Fame wide receiver is taking his talents to Tennessee. Many are left wondering if their teams should have forked over the 2022 second-round and 2023 fourth-round draft picks it took to acquire Jones. While Jon Gruden and the Raiders had shown definite interest, here are three reasons they were smart in their decision to pass up on the former Atlanta Falcon.
A young and promising WR corps…
It’s safe to say that the Raiders were missing some production from their young receivers in 2020. Last year’s rookies, Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards, combined for just 645 yards and three touchdowns. However, injuries plagued the young duo and I expect to see a much more productive unit with a full offseason in 2021. Undoubtedly, Ruggs and Edwards had flashes of brilliance, whether it was Ruggs snagging contested jump balls in Kansas City or Bryan Edwards’ flashy abilities after the catch.
Jon Gruden’s playbook is difficult enough to learn as a young player, though 2020 proved to be even more difficult. With so many time constraints and modifications made due to Covid-19, there was a lot of room to grow. As far as 2021, John Brown’s taking over for Nelson Agholor who left in free agency. The team also added Willie Snead IV this offseason, further crowding the receiver room. Also, Darren Waller will continue to make plays so the receiving corps should be just fine without Jones.
Cap issues for the Raiders
Let’s not get anything twisted, cap space should never be the reason a team decides not to pursue a superstar. However, for the Raiders, it was more about who they would have to clear from the roster in order to make room for Jones. Aside from the $11 million guaranteed the Raiders handed Kenyan Drake, albeit only $3 million in 2021, Gruden and Mike Mayock have been frugal with money this offseason. Case in point with acquisitions such as Yannick Ngakoue, Quinton Jefferson, and Casey Hayward on extremely team-friendly contracts.
In Julio’s case, finding room for his $15.3 million 2021 base salary, plus a looming extension, would’ve been difficult but not impossible. The Raiders could have made the necessary cuts had they pulled the trigger. Potentially extending Derek Carr to make room for the receiver would’ve also helped.
Nevertheless, considering the state of the roster and currently having just over $4 million in cap space, Mayock and Gruden decided that the 32-year-old star was not worth it. With over $52 million in cap space in 2022, plus the young developing Raiders core, the front office seems pleased in their direction.
The Raiders simply didn’t need Jones
Most importantly, the Raiders simply don’t need Julio. The priority in Las Vegas is to get the young receiving duo of Ruggs and Edwards more involved through their second year in Gruden’s system.
On top of reps being important to the success of an extremely young team, the Raiders are not just one superstar wide receiver away from a Super Bowl. Especially not on a team that ranked 10th in points per game, seventh in passing yards a game, and eighth in total offense in 2020. Gruden is famously known to show interest in just about every shiny new offensive weapon that becomes available. Still, even without the addition of Jones, the Raiders offense shouldn’t be a concern in 2021.
*Top Photo: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports