One of the biggest surprise moves of the NFL offseason was the Las Vegas Raiders trading away tight end Darren Waller to the New York Giants. Less than a year earlier the Raiders gave Waller a three-year extension placing him amongst the highest-paid players at his position.
Unfortunately, the season itself didn’t go well for Waller following his new deal. Injuries limited Waller to just nine games in 2022 as he caught just 28 passes for 388 yards and three touchdowns on the season. It was also the second consecutive season in which Waller was hampered by injuries, and this was a big concern for the team going forward.
According to Adam Caplan of Pro Football Network, the Raiders grew increasingly concerned with Waller’s injury issues over the past couple of years which was a main factor in why the team chose to trade him:
According to Pro Football Network Insider Adam Caplan, the Raiders became “wary of Waller missing significant time over the last two seasons.” Waller, 30, has missed 14 games since 2021.
As Caplan notes, Waller has missed 14 games over the past two years and in a number of those games that he did appear in, was extremely limited as well. His numbers from the past two years combined fail to match the production of his 2020 Pro Bowl season.
There were also rumors about Waller’s attitude off the field being a concern as well. Comments from players within the locker room seemed to indicate that not everyone was buying into the direction of the franchise and many felt Waller was the target. But according to Caplan the Raiders had no off-field concerns with the tight end and were strictly concerned about the injuries:
The Raiders did not have any off-field concerns about Waller, per Caplan. Instead, as a pro personnel source noted, teams prefer to move on from players a year too early rather than a year too late.
The idea of moving on a year too early rather than a year too late is something that was very prevalent throughout the run of the New England Patriots under Bill Belichick. Of course, head coach Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler came from the Patriots family so this line of thinking makes a lot of sense.
Waller’s talent is undeniable, but his reliability to remain on the field had waned over the past two seasons, and the franchise was clearly worried about it going forward. Perhaps they will ultimately regret the decision, but they have at least put themselves in a position to get great production from the tight end spot.