Report: Raiders CB DJ Hayden agrees to terms with Detroit

Report: Raiders CB DJ Hayden agrees to terms with Detroit

After four seasons with the Raiders, D.J. Hayden is reportedly moving on.

The cornerback agreed to terms on a one-year contract worth up to $5.25 million with the Detroit Lions, ESPN reported Friday morning.

Reggie McKenzie didn’t have a first-round pick in his initial NFL draft as Raiders general manager. One was available a year later, and McKenzie took a risk.

He traded down from No. 3 to No. 12 and took Hayden out of Houston, a talented cover man with a heart condition. Hayden ruptured his interior vena cava at a University of Houston practice, but recovered well enough to be a high pick McKenzie said he would’ve taken with the third pick.

Hayden never lived up to that standing. He dealt with injury most of his NFL career, though his heart never posed a problem after the first offseason. A groin issue cut his rookie season in half. A foot problem delayed his second. Then he had a healthy stretch where he grew as a player and eventually became a solid slot cornerback in his fourth season. He tore a hamstring late last year that required surgical repair, but many believed Hayden had turned a corner under Jack Del Rio’s staff.

The Raiders didn’t pick up his fifth-year option, making him a free agent this offseason. There was some talk about him coming back, but Hayden has left the coop.

That’ll mark a fresh start for Hayden, who was burdened at times by his draft slot. He gained confidence in recent seasons, and found a home covering on the inside. He finished last season with 37 tackles, six passes defensed and a forced fumble. Quarterbacks had an 85.5 rating targeting him, and Hayden allowed just 9.5 yards per catch in 2016.

The Raiders must look elsewhere to fill his void. TJ Carrie is a capable slot cornerback, though competition will be sought in free agency or a deep defensive back class in the NFL draft. They need help at safety as well, with Nate Allen likely headed elsewhere this offseason.

Hayden's dearture could be the beginning of the end for McKenzie's 2013 draft class. The Raiders hope to re-sign second-round offensive lineman Menelik Watson, and remain open to re-signing sixth-round running back Latavius Murray. Sixth round pick Stacy McGee signed with Washington and another sixth-rounder, tight end Mychal Rivera, will be allowed to leave in free agency. Fourth-round quarterback Tyler Wilson didn't make it beyond his rookie year, and third-round linebacker Sio Moore was traded before the 2015 regular season began. 

Looking for better interior pass rush, Del Rio gives vote of confidence


Looking for better interior pass rush, Del Rio gives vote of confidence

ALAMEDA – A large chip rests on Jihad Ward’s shoulder. That’s common for athletes, always on the hunt for motivation. Critics, detractors, those of little faith are easy and obvious targets.

The Raiders defensive lineman had options during a rookie season where he was thrust into full-time duty. Mario Edwards Jr. got hurt and never truly recovered, leaving last year’s second-round pick to play significant snaps. The heavy workload came earlier than the Raiders had planned, before Ward was ready. When Edwards Jr. returned late in the year, Ward was essentially shut down.

The Illinois product took some flak for it. He listened, absorbed and was fueled. He’s comfortable with that process, and the motivation that comes with it.

“They’re just trying to hate (on) people trying to do what they have to do,” Ward said Tuesday. “Keep on pushing. That’s all. …There will be critics everywhere.”

Head coach Jack Del Rio openly criticized Ward’s position group. He said after last season that the Raiders had to upgrade their inside pass rush, that they need more quarterback pressure from guys not named Mack or Irvin. He was right. The Raiders had a league-low 25 sacks despite 18 coming from their star edge rushers.

Edwards Jr. got healthy and Eddie Vanderdoes came in the NFL draft’s third-round, adding power and speed to that group. Ward, Denico Autry, Treyvon Hester, Justin Ellis and Darius Latham all have a part to play inside, and Del Rio believes that unit will be more impactful this season.

“It definitely is a much deeper group than we’ve had. More athletic group than we’ve had,” Del Rio said. “I’m very encouraged by the early signs that I’ve seen in pads, throughout camps against a very good offensive line that we have. Another great test this week to evaluate these guys because we’re playing one of the better lines in the league.”

The Raiders play Dallas on Saturday at AT&T Stadium, where starters will play extensive snaps against the vaunted Cowboys offensive line.

“It’s a great opportunity to evaluate, develop, continue to push, but we feel like we’ve strengthened ourselves there,” Del Rio said. “It’s probably the strength of the defense right now.”

That’s a vote of confidence for a group that should be more effective if healthy. Edwards Jr. and Vanderdoes should front the effort, though Ward could be an impact player if he builds off a strong offseason program. Del Rio says Ward was “more decisive,” this spring, a product of being comfortable playing in this system and this league.

Then Ward suffered a setback. He felt a tweak in his foot during OTAs, one that proved serious and required surgery to repair. He spent training camp on the PUP list, and was finally cleared to practice on Monday. Ward doesn’t think the layoff killed offseason momentum. The comfort and confidence hasn’t left.

“Your first year coming here, you’re thinking too much,” Ward said. “Now it’s like ‘okay, I get it now.’ That’s how it is for all rookies. They just have to learn what’s going on, so I feel it. Everything is easier now, it’s my second years now. It’s regular.”

Donald Penn yet to report as Raiders return home


Donald Penn yet to report as Raiders return home

ALAMEDA – Raiders left tackle Donald Penn missed training camp holding out for a new, more lucrative contract. He missed Tuesday’s practice, the first back at the team’s training facility.

His protest began 26 days ago. The regular season is 19 days away.

Penn has worked out with top trainers and private offensive line coaches while away from the team, but still needs time to get back in the flow.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday that Penn is expected back this week. He wasn’t there for the first of three sessions when the Raiders will focus on the third preseason game at Dallas. It’s the last meaningful exhibition, with players down on the depth chart expected to populate the preseason finale versus Seattle.

Penn doesn’t necessarily need to play in a preseason game to prep for the Sept. 10 regular-season opener at Tennessee, but it could help.

Head coach Jack Del Rio wouldn’t address Penn’s status, or whether there’s a deadline for him to report and be ready for the regular season.

The Raiders have managed with Marshall Newhouse on the left and Vadal Alexander on the right. The pair has fared well, though the line will be significantly stronger with Penn back and a Newhouse/Alexander competition on the right.

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie made it clear weeks ago that the Raiders wouldn’t talk contract until a player reports. Penn preferred a contract get done before showing up. Weeks were lost to that impasse.

Quarterback Derek Carr hopes it will end soon, and that Penn will come back to the team.

“It would obviously mean a lot, if that’s what he chooses to do,” Carr said. “He’s our teammate. We want all our teammates here. We want to work hard together. We want to be together and joke together. It’s more than just football. We want to be there in his life, with him.

"It would mean a lot. Obviously, I would love it.”