Taylor Mays reached an agreement with the Oakland Raiders on Tuesday, the team announced. It's the safety's third stop since March, having been previously signed and released by the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions.
He will be reunited with defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., who he worked with during his time at USC.
Mays carried a lot of hype coming out of college as a prospect with tremendous physical attributes who could develop into a high-impact defender, either as a safety or linebacker. In turn, the San Francisco 49ers took a chance on him in the second round of the 2010 draft.
One year later, the 49ers traded him to the Cincinnati Bengals for a seventh-round pick. It illustrated how much his stock dropped in such a short time, and not much changed over the next four seasons.
Mays provided defensive depth for the Bengals while also playing on special teams. He never started to show signs he could become a reliable three-down player on defense, however. It illustrates the risk associated with "workout warriors," as Ryan Riddle of DraftMetric.com explained:
Ryan Riddle @Ryan_Riddle
Taylor Mays (just cut) has all the physical tools to be great, but this is what's meant when they say football is more mental than physical.2015-8-22 02:13:39
It's something the Raiders franchise has experience with, per Steve Corkran of RaiderBeat.com:
Steve Corkran @CorkOnTheNFL
Signing Taylor Mays calls to mind the Al Davis days, when Davis loved a roster full of players who looked good getting off the bus. #Raiders2015-8-26 02:41:34
The 27-year-old former college star is going to continue getting chances because coaching staffs always believe they might have the key that can unlock his potential. The fact he continues to bounce around the league at such a rapid rate doesn't bode well for that breakthrough, however.
As he heads to the Raiders, he'll join a safety group that already includes injured starters Charles Woodson and Nate Allen.
Mays can still serve as a useful contributor thanks to that versatility. Whether that will be enough for him to hold down a spot on the roster is now the question, even with the Raiders already dealing with multiple injuries at the position.