The Raiders came into this offseason looking at needing to lock up a few key players. But with free agency to think about, they couldn’t get them all done right away. They gave Derek Carr and extension and locked up Maxx Crosby on a long term contract as well.
Any other would have to wait. That wait should be over now. As of a week ago the team added nearly $20 million to their cap figure due to dead money being pushed to next year after the cuts of Cory Littleton and Carl Nassib.
The sudden influx of cash gives them the ability to get back to work and two players are standing out like sore thumbs in terms of needing a new contract – WR Hunter Renfrow and TE Darren Waller.
No two weapons in a Josh McDaniels offense have been more prominent over the years than that of slot receiver and tight end. And the Raiders have two of the best in the league.
Hunter Renfrow – aka the ‘Slot Machine’ – is entering the final year of his rookie contract, fresh off a 103-catch, 1038-yard season that sent him to the Pro Bowl.
That season put Renfrow in the franchise record books for the second most catches in a single season by a Raiders wide receiver in franchise history. That’s a good season, especially for someone who is due for a contract extension.
Renfrow is preparing for what will be a contract year if he’s not locked up long term. Giving no indication that he’s thinking of anything but football.
“It’s easy to get distracted by a lot of things, but if you just keep things simple then I think success finds you along the way,” said Renfrow.
“It comes back to, do you do it for other people’s praises, do you do it for the accolades, or do you do it because you like to do it? And you do it to help the people around you? And if you can say yes to those three things, it’s pretty easy to not become complacent.”
Though Renfrow came in just behind Tim Brown (104) for catches among Raiders’ receivers, those numbers are actually fourth in franchise history because two years ago Darren Waller set a new franchise record for catches in a season when he racked up 107 in a season.
Waller has also been at the facility since day one, showing his commitment to the organization despite being worthy of a pay raise based on his performance since signing his previous extension, midway through the 2019 season. A deal that has two years left on it.
“I just focus on enjoying it while I’m here, whether I’m here 10 years or who knows how long. Just being present here,” Waller said on the first day of minicamp Tuesday. “My agent’s job is to do that stuff and I just focus on the football part because if you don’t focus on football and your mind’s elsewhere… you got to be locked in as a professional so I try to be professional.”
It’s a credit to Waller that he hasn’t taken the route of many big time players due for a raise and/or an extension. Often times they stay away from OTA’s and possibly minicamp as well. And Waller hasn’t missed a day of either voluntary or mandatory practices this offseason.
Outside of injuries, it’s easy to see why Waller and Renfrow are not concerned about going through this season without new contracts. Because the likelihood of raising their value after this season.
It’s not hard to envision. Just consider what kind of numbers tight end Rob Gronkowski and slot receivers Wes Welker and Julian Edelman put up in McDaniels’s offense in New England. Waller has considered it.
That should signal to you that there are big plans for Renfrow and Waller this season. And you can bet Renfrow has as well. Both have proven they are capable of putting up those numbers. Basically, they won’t be cheap, but they won’t be getting cheaper.