The Las Vegas Raiders entered this offseason looking to change things up. With a new head coach, an incoming star wide receiver, plus another star defensive end, the goal for new Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler was to keep the nucleus together, that includes Darren Waller.
That nucleus consists of quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, defensive end Maxx Crosby and of course, Waller, in addition to the special teams unit of Daniel Carlson, AJ Cole and Trent Sieg, who all signed multi-year extensions prior to Ziegler being named GM.
However, reports said otherwise as the Green Bay Packers were looking to acquire Waller. This comes about five weeks after the Raiders were able to get Davante Adams for two picks in this week’s NFL Draft.
Here are three reasons why the Raiders will not trade Waller.
1. Darren Waller’s versatility
Darren Waller has become a force on the football field, especially over the last couple of seasons.
Opposing defensive coordinators have to plan how they are going to defend Waller on a game-by-game basis.
Teams saw in 2020 how much of a force Waller was on the field as he recorded 107 receptions for 1,196 yards and nine touchdowns. His best game that season came against the New York Jets when he posted 13 catches on 17 targets for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
During that season two years ago, only Stefon Diggs, DeAndre Hopkins and Adams – all wide receivers – had a higher target share than Waller’s 28%.
With his agility, the 29-year-old has the ability to not play at the tight end position, but also play out wide.
By playing in multiple areas on the field, he has become more lethal on the gridiron while being compared to some of the game’s best tight ends.
Although multiple injuries prevented Waller from posting the eye-popping numbers in 2021 as he did in his 2020 season, when he was on the field, the tight end showed how important he was in the Raiders offense.
In Las Vegas’ first game in front of fans at Allegiant Stadium last season, Waller recorded 10 receptions on 19 targets for 105 yards and a touchdown in the team’s 33-27 overtime victory on Monday Night Football, giving fans a reminder of just how dominant he can be.
Ultimately, his Pro Bowl 2020 season showed everyone why he wants to stick in a Silver and Black uniform. Now, he’s looking to get back to that top form he showed when healthy. The Raiders give him the best chance of doing so.
2. Waller’s teammates won’t let that happen
With the Pro Bowl numbers Waller has put up, teammates and coaches alike have seen the production he can have on the field.
Carr, who enters his fifth season with Waller as Raiders teammates, understands how valuable Waller is to the organization both on and off the field.
“Our superstar player, our tight end, is our most selfless player on our team,” Carr said of Waller on Nov. 3. “When your best player is your most selfless player, everyone has to fall in line. ‘Who can argue about not getting targets if his targets go from 20 to four one day?’ He’s the biggest cheerleader on the sidelines the game he’s not playing.”
Basically, Carr isn’t having any of the Waller trade talk, and he made that clear on social media.
Besides his success on the field, Waller represents himself and the Raiders off the field with his charitable work. As a result, he was named the organization’s Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee.
Related: Raiders Roster Review – Tight ends
3. Raiders want to (eventually) give Waller a new contract
Entering this offseason, Waller has two years remaining on his contract. While being under contract until after the 2023 season, Ziegler and the front office have some time to decide on a new contract extension, especially for those who have one year remaining, such as Renfrow.
With the noise Waller has reverberated around the league, Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels know the type of player Waller has become, even with the Raiders facing the New England Patriots only a couple of times over the last few seasons.
As the days have passed since McDaniels’ and Ziegler’s first days in their new Raiders jobs, they have been building relationships and getting things done. From Carr and Crosby’s contract extensions, to trades and free agency signings, Waller’s contract could come soon, depending on where that stands on their list.
With this offense that Waller will be a part of in 2022, with Renfrow, Adams and Carr, the production he offers gives him the opportunity to earn that contract within the next year to lock him up and not be available for teams trying to pursue the 2020 Pro Bowler.