Players come and go throughout the National Football League. There are some that a franchise will believe is an excellent fit for their system, but it ultimately doesn’t work out. Front offices make mistakes in free agency and the draft, and not all players end up transitioning to the level of competition in the pros. Fans of the Las Vegas Raiders know this all too well.
Many of these players get traded, waived, or released; most go to other teams to see if they can reach their potential elsewhere. Sometimes the original team makes a mistake by letting go too early. There are several instances of players being productive and efficient in their new setting after starting their career slow.
In other scenarios, the team was smart to move as the performance never improved and sometimes even declined. There are many players that the Raiders were wise to remove from their roster. Some of the more popular names are easier to explain. No one will challenge the release of Henry Ruggs, Damon Arnette, or Antonio Brown.
3 Players The Las Vegas Raiders Were Smart To Move On From
Here are three players that were not character issues or distractions to the team (as far as we know), but the front office was wise to move on from them.
ALEX LEATHERWOOD…NEVER MEANT TO BE
It wasn’t a surprise that the Las Vegas Raiders drafted an offensive tackle in 2021. It was a surprise when they selected Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood with the 17th pick overall. Pro Football Focus (PFF) had Leatherwood ranked as the eighth offensive lineman in the 2021 NFL Draft; however, the Raiders (Mike Mayock) took Leatherwood as the fourth offensive lineman off the board.
Leatherwood struggled at the right tackle position and spent the season switching between guard and tackle. While Leatherwood did start in 17 games, he allowed 3.5 sacks and was responsible for 11 penalties, hardly a breakout rookie season. The new Raiders regime of Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler didn’t allow Leatherwood a second chance and waived him before the 2022 NFL season, unable to find a trade partner. The Chicago Bears eventually claimed Leatherwood, which officially ended his uneventful stint in Sin City.
Raiders Cut Ties Early With Leatherwood
In 2022 Leatherwood played in only four games and did not start in any of them. The former first-round pick joined the offensive line as a rotational player. He saw most of his action in Week 13 against the Packers and Week 15 against the Eagles. Leatherwood did not allow any sacks against the Packers. He didn’t fare as well against Philly. In 10 pass-blocking snaps against the Eagles, he allowed one sack, three hurries, and four pressures.
Obviously Hasson Reddick is a tough matchup for anyone and the 1st play, (the sack) was a screen pass that went awry, but he has to be better before he gets back on the field. #DaBears #Bears #ChicagoBears pic.twitter.com/f1ZHmPLfDs
— Clay Harbor (@clayharbs82) December 19, 2022
The Alabama product was clearly an overdraft by the Raiders. And it became obvious that McDaniels would not allow Leatherwood to develop in Vegas. The franchise cut bait on the offensive lineman early before investing (and wasting) more time on him.
The guaranteed rookie money was not a factor, as the Raiders wanted to move on from Leatherwood regardless. This was not a financially sound decision, but you should commend McDaniels and Ziegler for not wanting to waste time or a roster spot on a player that did not fit in their system.
BRYAN EDWARDS…WR2 to WR5
Jon Gruden once compared wide receiver Bryan Edwards to Hall of Fame receiver Terrell “TO” Owens. The 2020 third-round selection came to the Raiders with one of the picks received from the Khalil Mack trade. Unfortunately, Edwards would not live up to the comparison, and the former South Carolina Gamecock would be gone by 2022.
Edwards was supposed to be a starting receiver alongside Tyrell Williams, Henry Ruggs, and Nelson Agholor. Instead, he started his rookie season at a slow pace logging only 11 receptions in 12 games for 193 yards and one touchdown. Edwards dealt with injuries, and despite a bounce-back of sorts in 2021 (34 receptions, 571 yards, three TDs), Vegas sent him to the Falcons after only two seasons.
The 6-foot-3 wideout had his flashes during his time in the desert but struggled to separate and brought in just over fifty percent of his targets in 2021. This transaction chalks up to another win for the McDaniels-Ziegler duo.
McDaniels-Ziegler Send Edwards Packing
Edwards did not settle in Atlanta and finished his first season playing in only seven games, notching three total receptions for 15 yards. Falcons fans were critical of their new receiver after a possible lack of effort. One red zone touchdown throw in particular stuck with fans, as Edwards’ dismal effort turned into a Jalen Ramsey interception.
Jalen Ramsey picks off Marcus Mariota and the Falcons don’t come back from 28-3 ? pic.twitter.com/odB7WyEBr5
— BetOnline.ag (@betonline_ag) September 18, 2022
Edwards did not gain the trust of Falcons head coach Arthur Smith or quarterback Marcus Mariota. He has since reunited with Derek Carr in New Orleans.
JOHNATHAN “YOU CAN’T CUT ME” ABRAM
Johnathan Abram was a fan favorite on the HBO Series “Hard Knocks” in 2018 when the Oakland Raiders were the featured team. While most remember Abram for his mispronunciation of the word “salmon”, one of the more memorable scenes was when Jon Gruden reminded Abram not to go full force this early in training camp. While Abram had a lot to say in response to Gruden’s critique, one of the more jarring was when he told Gruden, “You can’t cut me.”
Oh, really Johnathan?
Abram was one of three first-round selections in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. He donned Charles Woodson’s No. 24 but never lived up to the sacred jersey number. Abram played one game in his rookie season against the Denver Broncos in Week 1. While the game ended as a win for the Silver and Black, Abram tore his rotator cuff and missed the rest of the season.
The Mississippi State standout missed several games in 2020 and 2021 but still logged three interceptions over those two seasons. Abram is an aggressive player that excels at tackling and loves to blitz. Unfortunately, in the modern NFL era, safeties also must play in coverage.
In 2021 Abram was ranked as the 75th safety by PFF after allowing a coverage grade of 112. The hard-hitting safety stuck around until the middle of the 2022 season when he popped up in trade talks. Alas, with no takers, the Raiders ultimately waived the former first-rounder.
The Green Bay Packers put in a waiver claim for Abram, before releasing him after 19 days. The 205-pounder was then picked up by the Seattle Seahawks and waived again before (also) joining Derek Carr in New Orleans with the Saints in March of 2023.
Raiders Look Brilliant In Wake Of Abram’s Release
Like many other Raiders, Abram had to deal with the ever-rotating door of coaches, which could have hurt his growth. However, the Raiders front office was not wrong to move on from the underwhelming safety. The Seahawks and Packers gave Abram a chance and moved on from him in a short amount of time. It can’t be a mistake that two other franchises decided to waive Abram shortly after assessing his playing ability.
Raiders fans may remember Abram fondly for his ability to tackle and mispronounce fish species. Unfortunately, more of us will remember him for abandoning his coverage assignment (Cover 4) against the Kansas City Chiefs, which allowed tight end Travis Kelce to be wide-open for the game-winning touchdown; at home, no less.
*Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images