Barring a Contract Conflict, Raiders Should Not Trade Darren Waller

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2022

Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller (83) with his helmet off before a game against the Cincinnati Bengals during an NFL Professional Football Game Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John McCoy)
John McCoy/Associated Press

Play Vince McMahon's WWE theme song. You can hear the chants of "no chance" in the background. That's exactly what the Las Vegas Raiders should say in response to any offer for tight end Darren Waller.

Why shake up a potential top-five passing offense that ranked sixth in yards in 2021?

Quarterback Derek Carr will have his top target over the past three years in Waller, two-time All-Pro wideout and former Fresno State teammate Davante Adams and a budding inside-out Pro Bowl receiver in Hunter Renfrow, who recorded a team-leading 103 catches, 1,038 receiving yards and nine touchdowns last season.

Ironically, the Green Bay Packers, who dealt Adams to the Raiders, want to acquire Waller after an unsuccessful attempt, per Aaron Nagler of Cheesehead TV:

"The Packers and Raiders have engaged in talks regarding a trade of Waller with an eye toward a deal getting done during this week's NFL draft.

"Waller is also apparently the player the Packers were trying to pry away from the Raiders during the negotiations around the trade of Adams, a move that was nixed when both sides were reminded that league rules prohibit players being part of compensation for a trade of a player on an unsigned franchise tag."

Though many Raiders fans wanted to dismiss the news, Nagler's report aligned with The Athletic's Jeff Howe's breakdown of the Adams deal:

"The Packers wanted the first- and second-round picks in 2022 that they ultimately received, but the Raiders were hoping to substitute that second-rounder for another pick.

"The deal then nearly hit a snag when the Packers asked for a player in return. Initially, the Raiders offered their 2022 first-round pick and a 2023 second-rounder. Shortly thereafter, the Packers asked for the first-rounder and an undisclosed player. It doesn't sound like the Raiders were going to accept that package, but the sides also realized such a deal actually wasn't permissible, as league rules don't allow a player to be involved in a trade for another player on the franchise tag. Finally, a few days after ironing out the contract with Adams, the Raiders agreed to send the pair of picks."

Howe didn't name the undisclosed player, but Waller makes sense since the Packers had traded their top pass-catcher.

And according to Nagler, Green Bay won't give up on its trade target.

Nonetheless, the Raiders are reportedly uninterested in making Waller available, per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler:

Jeremy Fowler @JFowlerESPN

Got a firm ‘zero chance’ Darren Waller is traded from a source. Teams certainly would like to acquire a top tight end on a good contract but Raiders have no plans to acquiesce.

On Monday, with the trade rumors swirling, Carr had the same take:

Derek Carr @derekcarrqb

Lol no chance. https://t.co/vINVlgdSMj

Do you hear McMahon's entrance music playing again? That's the recurring theme here, and justifiably so, but we cannot just close the book on this story yet.

Teams will likely continue to make calls for Waller, whose contract carries relatively modest cap hits of $6.8 million and $7 million for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

Moreover, like all general managers, Dave Ziegler will probably listen to offers for a player who isn't on the trade block.

Let's take a trip down memory lane.

In January 2019, former New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said, "We didn't sign him to trade him" in regards to speculation about Odell Beckham Jr. Two months later, Big Blue dealt the wide receiver to the Cleveland Browns.

Just last month, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll gave no indication the team would trade quarterback Russell Wilson, via ESPN's Brady Henderson.

"We have no intention of making any move there," he said, "but the conversations, [general manager John Schneider] has to field those. He always has. But nothing specific to that."

Carroll can maintain his stance and say the team didn't intend to move Wilson but that the front office received an offer it couldn't refuse and Wilson wanted to move on.

These transactions show the fluidity of backdoor discussions. A team's roster plan can change over the course of a few days.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 09:  Tight end Darren Waller #83 of the Las Vegas Raiders warms up before a game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Allegiant Stadium on January 09, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders defeated the Chargers 35-32 in overtim
Chris Unger/Getty Images

In the Raiders' case, Waller may want a new contract. In September, he signed with Klutch Sports Group. Keep in mind that his contract lists 10th or lower in key parameters among tight ends:

  • 17th in average annual value ($7.6 million)
  • 11th in total guarantees ($16.5 million)
  • 10th in total value ($30.3 million)

Despite an injury-marred 2021 campaign (55 catches for 665 yards and two touchdowns through 11 games), Waller is still an underpaid playmaker. He racked up 1,145-plus receiving yards in 2019 and 2020 and holds the Raiders' single-season record for receptions (107).

Unless Waller causes a stir about his deal behind the scenes, the Raiders have no reason to entertain any trade proposals. And at least publicly, he has gone about his business as usual. The 2020 Pro Bowler attended voluntary veteran minicamp, and we haven't heard a peep about a push for a new contract.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, left, and tight end Darren Waller.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, left, and tight end Darren Waller.Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

When or if Waller approaches the front office about a pay raise, he should feel good about the dialogue between his camp and the team. Thus far, Ziegler has handled high-profile deals privately and in a timely fashion. Over the past six-plus weeks, Vegas has signed edge-rusher Maxx Crosby to a four-year, $94 million extension, inked Adams to a five-year, $140 million deal that reset the market and came to terms with Carr on a three-year, $120.5 million extension.

The Raiders have only five draft picks with the highest selection in the third round, so they won't have to spend much on their incoming rookie class. Furthermore, the team will have an additional $19.8 million late in the spring because it designated Cory Littleton and Carl Nassib as post-June 1 cuts. If necessary, Ziegler can give Waller a short-term pay raise to satisfy him through 2022.

This offseason, the Raiders' new regime has taken care of cornerstone players and added two All-Pros on sizable deals. Chandler Jones signed a three-year, $51 million contract the day before the team acquired Adams.

A blowup between Waller's reps and the front office poses the only real threat of a split, but the tight end's professional attitude in the early stages of the offseason and Ziegler's way of doing business leave little doubt that the two sides could come to an agreement if Klutch Sports Group initiates contract talks before Week 1.

As Fowler reported and Carr tweeted, teams have virtually no chance of prying Waller from the Silver and Black as the club prepares to field a powerhouse passing attack.


Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.

Contract information provided by Over the Cap.