Traditionally, first-round picks get a longer leash when it comes to working through their struggles in the NFL.
And when that pick played collegiately at Alabama, that prospect tends to get as much time as possible to live up to their prospect billing on their rookie deal.
But one year after the Las Vegas Raiders used the 17th pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft on Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, the team has cut ties with the player:
On the one hand, that’s a shocker of a transaction. Putting a first-round pick with just one year of playing experience is jarring. But on the other hand, it isn’t wholly unexpected. Leatherwood had a rough rookie season in Vegas. It wasn’t long before the Raiders moved him from tackle to guard. That’s how quickly things got bad for Leatherwood. And the move inside wasn’t all that productive. Leatherwood’s 45.5 overall grade from Pro Football Focus was the third worst among 82 qualifying guards. If ever there was a time to move on from a player, this was it. Especially for a Raiders franchise who dropped the GM and head coach who brought him in last year.
In other words, the cut was as much about a new regime cleaning house as it was Leatherwood’s play.
With that being said, I think the Bears would be wise to check in on Leatherwood. NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport was reporting that the Raiders contacted the league’s other 31 teams inquiring about a Leatherwood trade only to be met with “no’s” across the board. That’s not surprising, especially if you read the paragraph above. But that makes Leatherwood a near lock to clear waivers. Especially because of the guarantees Tom Pelissero notes here that would otherwise scare teams off. Leatherwood making it through waivers would allow teams to sign him at minimal cost. All while the Raiders pay off the rest of the balance. The risk/reward calculus suggests the juice could be worth the squeeze. Particularly for a rebuilding team with nothing to lose in the early stages of the team-building process. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Bears. We discussed this possibility in Bullets earlier.
Things clearly didn’t work out for the Raiders. And while they might not work out for the Bears, it would behoove them to do some due diligence before crossing his name off a potential targets list.