Entering the 2019 season, Jalen Richard was trending upward and had many assuming he would be the lead pass-catching back for the Oakland Raiders. After all, why wouldn’t he be? Throughout the 2018 season, Richard had recorded 607 receiving yards on 68 receptions, leading the Raiders’ running back corps by an impressive amount. In 2019, fellow Raiders running back DeAndre Washington recorded one reception for nine yards.
But, over the 2019 preseason, something changed, and Washington tended to take the reins in the pass-catching department while Richard saw his numbers cut in half. Last season, Richard and Washington split receptions exactly, with both players recording 36 catches. Richard recorded more receiving yards, but Washington would record 69 more rushes and four more rushing touchdowns than Richard. Washington would also outgain Richard in total yards, 679-468. Plus, when Josh Jacobs went out, Washington assumed the lead-back role.
Now, Richard is headed to the free agency market and the Raiders have a major question to answer: is Richard going to be worth signing past his rookie deal? Richard’s rookie contract brought him $3 million in 2019, while Washington’s contract brought in $720,000. Both players are due for new contracts, but one may be expecting more. However, before Washington’s emergence, Richard was on pace to record 1,000 receiving yards in a season in his near future. Richard certainly has shown his ability to make big plays, but Washington has as well. It is not uncommon for teams to use two receiving backs behind a bellcow back, but most of them are kept around due to their affordability.
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As witnessed in his rookie season, Jacobs is an incredibly hard-running back. Like most hard-running backs, they are susceptible to the occasional bumps and bruises. When a back experiences a bump or bruise, it is great to have two highly capable backs, as the Raiders do. The question now becomes focused on draft picks. Would it make more sense to bring in a completely new player, potentially drafted in the later rounds, like Jonathan Ward? Financially, yes, it certainly would. Paying millions of dollars for a potential third-string running back seems excessive.
The biggest decision depends on how aggressive the Raiders want to be in free agency. If it is determined the Raiders will sit back and watch other teams engage in bidding wars, Richard remains a good option. But, with the 7 th most cap space in the league, the Raiders should be looking to spend.
Richard may have had impressive talent for a rookie contract. However, it feels as though the Raiders were expecting him to do more to earn a second contract. Moving on from Richard would mostly be a business move as he will certainly find his way to another roster, but does not make sense to resign with all the talent the Raiders’ other backs have.