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Raiders release Ruggs after fatal crash, look for replacement

Updated November 2, 2021 - 9:20 pm

The Raiders woke up Tuesday morning to the chilling news that young wide receiver Henry Ruggs was being charged with DUI resulting in death after a fiery car crash earlier that morning in Las Vegas claimed the life of the other driver.

Less than 24 hours later, the Raiders released the second-year wide receiver Tuesday night.

The Raiders made the announcement in a terse, one-sentence statement that ended the career of a player they drafted 12th overall in 2020 and who has two years and a fifth-year club option remaining on his rookie contract.

“The Las Vegas Raiders have released WR Henry Ruggs III.”

The team, which did not practice Tuesday, now begins the process of replacing Ruggs on the football field.

Ruggs was blossoming this season into the player the Raiders envisioned upon drafting him with the 12th overall pick in 2o2o despite an up and down rookie season last year while dealing with leg injuries and making the transition from college to the NFL.

Through seven games he had 24 catches for 469 yards and two touchdowns. He is averaging 19.5 yards per catch.

As the Raiders prepare to get back to work on Wednesday in preparation for their trip to New Jersey to play the New York Giants on Sunday, they sit atop the AFC West standings, one game ahead of the Los Angeles Chargers. All their goals and objectives are within reach, so it is vital they fill the Ruggs void as quickly as possible.

In the short term, veteran Zay Jones will assume Ruggs’ wide receiver spot alongside Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards and tight end Darren Waller. Jones has been in the system for three years and has a great relationship with quarterback Derek Carr. While he doesn’t possess the top high-end speed of Ruggs, he’s still fast.

Jones has six catches for 115 yards and is tied for second on the Raiders in yards per catch with 19.2.

The Raiders did not make a move at the trade deadline on Tuesday — at wide receiver or otherwise — but that does not mean they didn’t explore some potential replacement possibilities.

One, in particular, is longtime NFL standout DeSean Jackson, who was given the green light by the Los Angeles Rams to find a new home via trade last week. A source with knowledge of the situation indicated there was “a lot of interest” from several NFL teams in Jackson at the trade deadline. But with the understanding that the Rams were going to release him if they could not work out a trade, clubs opted to wait for him to hit the waiver wire, the Raiders among them.

The Rams released Jackson on Tuesday, and he will go through the waiver process Wednesday. If no one claims him — and the expectation within the league is that no one will because of a prohibitive contract — he will become a free agent able to sign with the team of his choosing Thursday.

Jackson is still one of the fastest players in the NFL, and in his time with the Rams, he caught eight passes for 221 yards and one touchdown. With Ruggs out of the picture, the Raiders are down to three wide receivers. So Jackson makes a lot of sense, either as a waiver claim or as a free agent.

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

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