Jalen Richard entered 2021, his sixth season with the Las Vegas Raiders, in the last year of his contract. Unfortunately, his impact has diminished over the past few years. The Silver and Black must now ask themselves if his tenure has come to an end.
Richard’s 2021 season got off to a rocky start
Before the season even started, there were questions swirling regarding his status with the team. Richard has been vocal in refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccination that is encouraged by the league. He likened playing in the NFL unvaccinated to being like “playing in jail.” There was even speculation that a team would look more favorably on a vaccinated player in order to be more compliant with NFL rules.
The team could then potentially favor the vaccinated player over an unvaccinated player. Richard himself was placed on the COVID-19 list twice last year. Once in July, before preseason games started, and once in December, causing him to miss two games.
Reliability in question
Richard initially started the season by missing the first four games. He made much less of an impact on the team by only playing in 10 games total throughout the year. While he remained a skilled and valuable pass blocker, his presence on the stat sheet was quite thin.
Starting in his rookie year, Richard had 83 rushing attempts for 491 yards and a touchdown. He also hauled in 29 receptions on 39 targets for 194 yards and two touchdowns. By this season, he had run only nine times for 40 yards. His receiving game fared no better. Richard was targeted 14 times for 12 receptions, 72 yards and no touchdowns. He also contributed 227 kick return yards and 32 special teams’ snaps. His productivity had significantly dropped, as he had only played 104 regular snaps on the season.
Will he re-sign with Raiders?
Now the question remains, where does this leave Richard? He restructured his 2021 salary to create a little over $1 million in cap space for the Raiders. While this was a noble act, it still leaves him as an unrestricted free agent after the 2021 season.
Will his pass-blocking abilities be enough for the Raiders to sign him to a new deal? Or will he be allowed to test the market? That is up to new general manager Dave Ziegler to decide, along with new head coach Josh McDaniels. They might just decide to let Richard walk and see what kind of a deal he might be able to find for himself.
*Top Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images