Wednesday, March 29

Raiders waiving 2021 first-round OL Alex Leatherwood

Alex Leatherwood’s disappointing start in Las Vegas has met a sudden end.

The Raiders are waiting for the 2021 first-round pick, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported. The team is also trading cornerback Trayvon Mullen, a former second-round selection, to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick that could become a sixth-round selection based on playing time, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

The Raiders later announced both moves.

Leatherwood’s selection was a surprise on draft night, but the Raiders — who were then led by general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden — maintained they didn’t care what doubters thought of their choice. Despite the consensus opinion that Leatherwood was over drafted by at least one round, Las Vegas pushed forward with the belief Leatherwood would pair with Kolton Miller to give the Raiders bookend tackles for years to come.

Then, the proof (or lack thereof) started to surface in the 2021 season.

Leatherwood began his rookie season at right tackle, but didn’t last too long. He played a total of 257 snaps in his first month in the NFL and was remarkably bad, earning offensive game grades in the 30s in three of his first four games, per Pro Football Focus.

The regimen that selected Leatherwood didn’t last beyond the 2021 season, and the Alabama product began Year 2 back at tackle under coach Josh McDaniels. Position fit didn’t matter to McDaniels as much as the basics of playing offensive line in the NFL, with McDaniels telling the Las Vegas Review-Journal “what we’re going to focus on is fundamentals, technique.”

We didn’t need the Rosetta Stone to translate what McDaniels was saying. After a second professional preseason, evidently, Leatherwood did not improve his technique enough to keep his job from him. Perhaps even more significant is the Raiders lost Parker to a season-ending triceps injury, and still waived Leatherwood.

Leatherwood wasn’t the only swing and miss from the Gruden-Mayock era, but he was among the most notable because of draft position. The new power duo of McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler proved later Tuesday they weren’t stopping at Leatherwood, either, as they traded Mullen to Arizona.

Mullen was a second-round pick in the first draft class of the Gruden-Mayock era. When compared to Leatherwood, Mullen was much more productive, but Ziegler’s accrual offseason of competition was a sign the new regime wasn’t as high on Mullen as the previous duo.

After all, he wasn’t their pick. He needed to prove he could keep his job from him.

In the end, the Raiders believed it was in their best interest to move Mullen, clearing the way for the likes of Nate Hobbs, Rock Ya-Sin, Amik Robertson and Anthony Averett as the team’s top four corners.

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