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.