One of the inevitable realities of the NFL is that teams cut players every season. Some end up being stars elsewhere—something that Raiders fans are used to seeing. Other players are cut based on their performances and never play again. As far as the Silver and Black goes, they’ve experienced significant turnover since the 2022 season concluded. With that said, here are three players that general manager Dave Ziegler will regret cutting in 2023.
From inspirational leader to injured reserve…
One of the more obvious names to make this list is Derek Carr, the starting quarterback for the Raiders since 2014. Vegas released Carr in February of 2023 to save cap space and move on from a signal-caller that has yielded only two postseason appearances. The veteran played in only one of those postseason games, resulting in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Carr, however, was one of the more durable and inspiring leaders in Raiders’ history. He never missed more than one regular season game in nine seasons. Statistically, the former second-rounder also landed on the Mount Rushmore of Raiders quarterbacks with the highest passing yards in a season in franchise history at 4,804.
Vegas changes course at quarterback
Despite cementing his name in team history, the current regime of Ziegler and Josh McDaniels elected to rip the band-aid off. Carr’s replacement wound up being one of the least durable quarterbacks in the league: Jimmy Garoppolo.
Jimmy G, while he has a 5-2 record in the postseason and played in a Super Bowl, has less experience as a starter than Carr. Garoppolo also has quite an extensive injury history. In his nine seasons in the NFL, the Eastern Illinois product only has three seasons where he played in double-digit games. Garoppolo failed his initial physical with the Raiders but is hopeful to be on the field in time for training camp.
The reason Dave Ziegler will regret this decision centers around health and availability. Jimmy G will likely miss several games, resulting in Brian Hoyer or rookie Aidan O’Connell taking snaps under center. Neither of these options, including Garoppolo, necessarily strikes fear into opposing defenses.
The Raiders fan base is already skeptical after the failed physical, and optimism isn’t exactly at an all-time high in Raider Nation. Dave Ziegler will bear the brunt of the blame if Garoppolo suffers an injury while Derek Carr leads the New Orleans Saints to an NFC South title.
Raiders bail on the “Wall Street” connection
Tight end Darren Waller was a risk when the Raiders signed him off the Baltimore Ravens practice squad in 2019. Rolling the dice was worth it, as Waller became an instant star for the Raiders. He became a top tight end in the NFL and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2020.
Despite Waller’s addiction history, the Raiders took a chance on him, and he thrived in the system under Jon Gruden. Waller didn’t get much opportunity in 2022, only participating in nine games due to an injury. The 2015 sixth-rounder looked healthy at the end of the season and appeared ready to reclaim his glory in 2023.
Waller would never receive the chance to get a full season with McDaniels, who comes from the Patriots system where tight ends are an integral part of the offense. He was instead traded to the Giants for a third-round pick before the 2023 NFL Draft.
Waller would have a new quarterback to work with in 2023 whether or not he stayed with the Raiders. Now he will be catching passes from Daniel Jones rather than Jimmy Garoppolo. Jones is coming off a postseason run with the Giants, thanks to his new head coach, Brian Daboll, who is entering his second season in charge in New York.
Dave Ziegler missed out on better deal; Vegas will pay…
Dave Ziegler is already catching heat for this move. The Green Bay Packers were initially interested in Waller prior to the trade deadline. Rumors say the Packers sent an offer for the star tight end, and the price was a second-round pick. Ziegler refused this deal, only to part with Waller months later for a significantly lesser pick.
The first-time general manager did draft an exciting tight end, Michael Mayer, but rookies always take some time to get acclimated in the NFL. Waller will be hitting the ground running in New York, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he became Daniel Jones’ favorite target.
The Raiders organization will regret parting with one of their stars in Las Vegas. The organization looks bad for several reasons. Not only because Waller overcame addiction through the Raiders or just got married to Las Vegas Aces’ star Kelsey Plum, but because he will likely be playing in the postseason like Derek Carr. Meanwhile, the Raiders will be lucky to break a .500 record in 2023. Such is life.
This looks good… Let’s break it!
Always make sure to save the best for last! There aren’t many strong units that the Raiders consistently field, but the kicking group was one of them. Long snapper Trent Sieg, punter A.J. Cole, and kicker Daniel Carlson were a dynamic trio and found great success in their time together since 2019. Sieg was released before the 2023 NFL Draft and replaced by former Broncos’ long snapper Jacob Bobenmoyer. Bobenmoyer was once coached by the Raiders’ current special teams coach, Tom McMahon.
Current coaches bringing in their former players isn’t a foreign idea in the NFL. Doing so makes sense unless you’re breaking apart a unit that has been successful for four years together. Daniel Carlson is emerging as one of the best kickers in the NFL — if not the best — after having a better completion percentage than Ravens’ legendary kicker Justin Tucker. Sieg’s release damaged the core of the kicking unit while also reportedly upsetting some current players.
Never underestimate the value of chemistry
Predicting success for Carr and Waller seems easier than predicting Sieg’s triumph with his new team, the Dallas Cowboys. However, Sieg joins a group that has qualified for the postseason three times since 2018, once again placing himself in a better position than if he remained in Las Vegas. If Carlson or Cole regress at all in 2023, the blame will surely shift in Dave Ziegler’s direction.
Removing key pieces of the ‘21 Raiders squad that made the playoffs is not a strong start. The 6-11 record in 2022 further exacerbates the issue. The Patriot Way may not be long for Vegas. If all three players are successful and the Raiders limp to a last-place finish, the optics will be difficult to overcome.
*Top Photo: AP Photo/Matthew Hinton