3 Options To Replace Former Raiders WR Henry Ruggs III

The season from Hell: that’s how the Las Vegas Raiders will remember this 2021 campaign. But despite the latest freight train of emotion to hit this team, they must somehow push on.

Their goals are still in front of them. With the 2-6 New York Giants next on the docket, a 6-2 start is within reach. But someone will need to fill Ruggs’s speed void the rest of the way.

Here are the Silver and Black’s best three options to step in and stretch the field for Derek Carr.

Odell Beckham Jr.

Considering the prior status of OBJ and the fact he’s still, technically, employed by the Cleveland Browns, the notion that Beckham is an option is crazy. That employment isn’t expected to last through the week. After being absent at Browns practice Wednesday, head coach Kevin Stefanski came out and revealed that he had been excused. The reason? Beckham is “essentially not on the team right now.” That’s what Stefanski told his team. While he has been nowhere near his normal production this year (17 receptions for 232 yards. 0 touchdowns), he has been working with an injured quarterback, and his playing time has dropped drastically (credit to Donovan Peoples-Jones). 

Beckham is still only 28-years-old. He’s healthy(ish). And there’s no question the guy can catch a football. The Raiders would be ecstatic if they could lure him to Vegas, and they’ve already expressed interest in doing so.

There’s just one catch (pun not intended): if/when he’s put on waivers, not only would the Raiders need to win the waiver claim, but they’d need to pay his remaining salary of around $8 million; they cannot afford to do that. It’s almost certain that no interested team (i.e. contenders with little cap space themselves) would pay that. Thus, assuming he clears waivers, Beckham would have his own choice of where to go next. 

Here’s hoping he’d prefer not to catch balls from Taysom Hill. 

John Brown

No, the second possibility is not DeSean Jackson. And that is not because the Raiders wouldn’t want the 34-year-old speedster (you can bet they put a claim in for him). Instead, it is because another team will likely claim him before Las Vegas does. At the time this post is being written, his next destination is unknown. However, it is safe to assume D-Jax will land with a team currently ahead of the Raiders in claim order, such as the Steelers or the Saints. Maybe even the Patriots, if Belichick is feeling wild.

With D-Jax off the table, Mike Mayock and his staff should shift their focus to a mildly-familiar face: John Brown. Cut before the regular season at his request; Brown is currently a free agent. If he returned, he wouldn’t have to worry about being buried on the depth chart again. He’d be their main vertical threat. 

“Smoke” can absolutely get vertical. No, he can’t move like Ruggs. Very few can. But he’s a seasoned vet, just one year removed from a 1,000 yard season with Buffalo in 2019. He’s also a good route runner, adept at finding soft spots in zones; he got quite good at that while playing with a mobile quarterback in Josh Allen. 

He’s not the sexiest replacement. But he’s definitely a sound one.

And he already knows the playbook. 

Rico Gafford

Speaking of knowing the playbook, 2019 preseason legend Rico Gafford can play in this offense. He has previous reps with Carr, including this 49-yard bomb against Tennessee. Currently on the Denver Broncos practice squad, Gafford ran an (unofficial) 40-yard dash of 4.26 when coming out of Wyoming in 2018.

One scout even claimed to have clocked him at a 4.19. That would be the fastest speed ever recorded at the NFL combine. 

If you’re merely looking for speed, Gafford is your guy. As a former defensive back in college, he isn’t as well rounded as other options. But he’s been in the NFL (active roster or practice squad) for four years now, as a wide receiver. He knows what he’s doing — and he knows the Raiders.

The Raiders Have To Roll With The Punches…

The Raiders have no choice but to roll with the punches here, again. With all the prayers in the world sent towards everybody involved in this Ruggs tragedy, the organization still has to regroup and play football this Sunday. Whoever they choose to add (we know Dillon Stoner likely has a spot in the receiver room going forward), Las Vegas will have to shift the dynamic of this offense. Carr will need to continue spreading the wealth. And emotions will have to be balanced as much as humanly possible.

In truth, everything about this is sickening and horrific. And each member of the Raiders roster is being tested once again. If they can pass this test, if they can sled through adversity and into the postseason, this group will be immortalized as one of the toughest and most determined football teams in NFL history.

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*Top Photo: Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

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