Either Jon Gruden has some master plan, or the Raiders are taking a tremendous risk.
Las Vegas released star center Rodney Hudson on Tuesday, meaning four-fifths of their starting offensive line – one of the best units in the NFL – is either gone or will be very soon.
The Raiders already released Richie Incognito and traded Trent Brown to the Patriots. Gabe Jackson expects to be released, though the move hasn’t officially happened yet. Now, Kolton Miller is the last man standing from their starting offensive line.
Trading Brown made sense from a cap perspective, as the team saved $14 million by sending the unhappy tackle to New England. The Raiders saved $9.6 million and $5.5 million, respectively, by releasing Jackson and Incognito (all figures are from Over the Cap).
But with Hudson, not only do the Raiders not save any money, they actually lose money by releasing him. He would count for $13.6 million against the cap on the roster, but the dead cap jumps to $15.6 million by releasing him. The Raiders can spread that dead cap over two seasons, but the bottom line is they have to spend $2 million more than they would have if they had just kept Hudson.
And it’s not like Hudson has been a liability – quite the opposite, actually. He was named Second Team All-Pro as recently as 2019, and has only missed four games due to injury over eight seasons. He is 31, but he is arguably the second or third best player on the team.
The cuts the Raiders made appeared to be signaling a splash in free agency, but apart from signing Yannick Ngakoue to a two-year deal, they have yet to make any seismic moves. Perhaps they are preparing to make a move for Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson, but why would they let go of their best offensive linemen if that’s the plan? Especially if Hudson, arguably the best of the lot, only hurts their positioning to do that?
Either way, Gruden should be feeling the heat after failing to make the playoffs in his first three seasons. With the moves the team has made, it doesn’t appear he’ll be any closer in his fourth year.