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Raiders continue to remake roster with trade of star tight end

Updated March 14, 2023 - 8:02 pm

The trade of standout tight end Darren Waller on Tuesday continues the remodeling of the Raiders.

It began in December when longtime starter Derek Carr was benched for the final two games by first-year coach Josh McDaniels and released in February.

And, as is often the case in a major restoration, it sometimes comes at an emotional cost.

In the Raiders’ case, that was reflected in the series of moves they made Tuesday that ultimately resulted in the trade of Waller, one of their brightest stars and a fan favorite.

Waller was dealt to the Giants for a third-round pick (100th overall). The move was tied into the one they made earlier in the day when they agreed to terms with former Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers on a three-year contract worth $33 million, $21 million of it in guarantees.

From the Raiders’ perspective, adding Meyers at roughly the same amount owed Waller — combined with the draft pick from the Giants — was a move that addresses the present and future.

Waller, who caught 83 passes for 1,053 yards the past two seasons and was essentially under control for one more year, basically departs for Meyers, a 26-year-old who had 160 catches for 1,670 yards and six touchdowns the past two seasons and is under control for the next three years.

Plus, with the third-round pick, the Raiders theoretically will have four years of control with the player they draft.

The moves also give the Raiders a chance to get younger. Waller, 30, dealt with injuries the past two years and never found his footing in McDaniels’ offense. Two hamstring injuries limited him to 28 catches for 388 yards and three touchdowns in nine games last season.

Nevertheless, the trade is a gamble. Waller is one of the top tight ends in the NFL when healthy — and certainly one of the most popular players in recent franchise history for his on-field and off-field success.

Waller’s well-chronicled battle with substance abuse nearly derailed his career. He overcame his addictions and emerged with the Raiders after they plucked him off the Ravens’ practice squad in 2018. The inspiring story resonated with fans, who immediately embraced him as a role model.

Those fans haven’t seen the last of Waller. The Giants will play at Allegiant Stadium in the 2023 season.

The third-round pick from New York gives the Raiders 12 picks in the draft, including four in the top 100.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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