While everyone focuses on the Las Vegas Raiders’ big needs on defense ahead of free agency and the NFL Draft, the team’s offensive line is also seeing change and where the team goes could determine how well the offense can do in 2021.
Two days after the news broke that right guard Gabe Jackson was notified he will be released the Raiders are planning on cutting left guard, Ritchie Incognito as well, signaling a major shakeup on the Las Vegas offensive line in 2021.
The plan to move on from both guards saves the talent-starved Raiders $15 million in badly needed cap space. As general manager Mike Mayock tries to navigate a very difficult situation with the 2021 salary cap, he and coach Jon Gruden will deal with an expected drop from $198 million in 2020 to at least $180 million in 2021.
Jackson and Incognito join Tyrell Williams who was previously released as the first but not the last of the cap casualties that are expected in the next couple of weeks.
In the case of Gabe Jackson, who was set to make $9.6 million dollars in 2021, making him the 12th highest-paid guard in the league. His play did not justify a contract of that magnitude. Sure he brought stability to the offensive line which was badly needed considering the revolving door at right tackle and injuries at left guard but according to Pro Football Focus in 2020, Jackson ranked 40th out of 80 qualifying guards and tied a career-worst 26 pressures allowed.
Ritchie Incognito’s situation is a bit different considering he is soon to be 38 and on the back end of his career. Also, Incognito is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury. Reports say that he is 100% recovered from the injury but it’s possible the Raiders have some reservations about a player of his age coming off a serious injury.
Las Vegas Raiders beat writer, Vic Tafur of The Athletic suggests that Incognito’s time away could be brief.
If for some reason Incognito is not brought back on a cheaper, more team-friendly deal, the next best place to look for a replacement could be to re-sign one of their own in free agent Denzelle Good.
Good filled in admirably in each of the last two seasons when his number was called. Last season in particular he made 14 starts and played well enough to earn himself a new contract.
Second year man, John Simpson who saw action in five games including two starts could be in the mix to battle for a starting role in 2021.
The next domino to fall among the offensive line is what the team decides to do with right tackle, Trent Brown.
The much-maligned Brown, who has played in only 16 games in the last two seasons is set to make $14 million in 2021. NFL insider Ian Rapoport has reported that the Raiders have had trade talks about potentially dealing the right tackle.
He also notes that he does not expect Brown to be outright cut, but if a trade partner can be found, Mayock and Gruden would be willing to entertain a trade if the compensation is right.
Mayock met with members of the media on Wednesday and was asked about the future of the right tackle with the Raiders.
“Regarding Trent, the jury is still out here,” said Mayock of Brown. “You know he is under contract and again we believe in the talent of that player. There would be nothing finer than having Trent Brown at right tackle protecting Derek Carr in week one.”
It’s hard to believe that Jon Gruden who has praised the offensive line as the strength of the team since his return in 2018, would be willing to enter the new league year (March 17th) needing to replace three of the five starting offensive lineman.
While hard to imagine, these are unprecedented times we are in and teams across the league are expected to part ways with high quality players due to salary cap limitations. Buckle up folks it’s going to be a wild ride.