The Oakland Raiders made Darren McFadden their first pick in the 2008 NFL draft. Compared with many of the Raiders' other first-round picks in the decade, McFadden has been the furthest thing from a bust.
Out of the draft McFadden signed a six-year, $60 million contract, and he is currently in the fifth year of that deal. McFadden will have a cap hit of over $8 million for 2013, which is not a bad deal for one of the NFL's best running backs.
A glance at McFadden's stats shows he was averaging over five yards per carry between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and in 2011 he led the NFL in rushing yards after six weeks before suffering a season-ending foot injury.
While McFadden is one of the NFL's top running backs, that is only the case when he is healthy. McFadden is set to play against the Broncos on Thursday Night Football after returning from a high ankle sprain that took him out for a month. McFadden has been injured every year of his NFL career and has played no more than 13 games in a single season.
With that injury history in mind, that $8 million cap hit is a lot to take for an organization that has its hands tied by the salary cap. It would be one thing to pay that $8 million if McFadden was effective and healthy for a full season, but he hasn't been either of those things in 2012.
At the beginning of the season I would have scoffed at the idea of trading or even releasing McFadden, but Marcel Reece and Jeremy Stewart have looked good in their time as emergency fill-ins for McFadden. Also, the Raiders still have Taiwan Jones, who matches McFadden's speed.
Looking at the salary cap and looking at the performances of the backup running backs, I can see the Raiders shopping McFadden for draft picks in a sign-and-trade deal after the season. The Raiders do not have a second-round pick in the upcoming 2013 NFL draft (Carson Palmer trade) and could shop McFadden around for at least a pick in Round 2 this year.
The more I think about it, the more I think that it is the right thing for the franchise to move forward to trade McFadden for picks. Depth has been one of Oakland's weaknesses this year, and acquiring more picks translates into acquiring more players.
As much as it still hurts to say it for Raiders fans, McFadden's time in Oakland could be done.