One of the inevitable realities of the NFL is that teams cut players every season. Some end up becoming stars elsewhere – something Raiders fans are used to seeing. Other players are cut based on their performance and never play again. As for the Silver and Black, they have seen significant turnover since the 2022 season ended. That said, here are three players general manager Dave Ziegler will regret cutting in 2023.
From inspirational leader to injured reserve…
One of the more obvious names on this list is Derek Carr, the starting quarterback for the Raiders since 2014. Vegas released Carr in February 2023 to save cap space and move on from a signal-caller who has made just two postseason appearances. The veteran played in only one of those postseason games, resulting in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
However, Carr was one of the more durable and inspirational 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 most passing yards in a season in franchise history to 4,804.
Vegas is changing course at quarterback
Despite cementing his name in team history, Ziegler and Josh McDaniel’s current regime chose to rip the patch off. Carr’s replacement ended 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 has only three seasons where he two digits are played game. Garoppolo failed his initial physical with the Raiders but hopes to be on the field in time for training camp.
The reason why Dave Ziegler will regret this decision centers around health and accessibility. Jimmy G will likely miss several games, resulting in Brian Hoyer or rookie Aidan O’Connell taking snaps under center. None of these options, including Garoppolo, necessarily strike fear into opposing defenses.
The Raiders fan base is already skeptical after the failed physical, and optimism isn’t exactly at its highest in Raider Nation. Dave Ziegler will shoulder 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. It was worth the roll 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 only got many opportunities in 2022 participate in nine matches due to to an injury. The 2015 sixth-rounder looked healthy at the end of the season and seemed poised to recapture his glory in 2023.
Waller would never get 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 prior to the 2023 NFL Draft.
Waller would have a new quarterback to work with in 2023, whether he stayed with the Raiders or not. Now he will catch passes from Daniel Jones instead of 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 a better deal; Vegas Will Pay…
Dave Ziegler is already getting heat for this move. The Green Bay Packers were initially interested in Waller before the trade deadline. Rumors say the Packers sent an offer to the star tight end and the price was one second round pick. Ziegler refused this deal, only to part ways with Waller months later for a significantly smaller pick.
The first-time general manager drafted an exciting tight end, Michael Mayer, but rookies always take some time to adjust to the NFL. Waller will hit the ground running in New York, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he became Daniel Jones’ preferred target.
The Raiders organization will regret parting ways with one of their stars in Las Vegas. The organization looks bad for several reasons. Not just because Waller overcame addiction through the Raiders or just got married to Las Vegas Aces star Kelsey Plum, but because he’ll likely play in the postseason like Derek Carr. Meanwhile, the Raiders will be lucky to hit a .500 record in 2023. Such is life.
This looks great… 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 AJ Cole and kicker Daniel Carlson were a dynamic trio and had 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 current Raiders special teams coach Tom McMahon.
Current coaches bringing in their former players is not a foreign idea in the NFL. That makes sense unless you’re breaking apart a unit that’s 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 device, while it also reportedly disturb 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, again putting 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 from the ’21 Raiders squad that made the playoffs is not a strong start. The 6-11 record in 2022 further exacerbates the problem. 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 hard to overcome.
*Top photo: AP Photo/Matthew Hinton
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