Could Darren Waller’s absence in practice be related to a contract dispute?

Source: AP

Before we begin, there is zero evidence to support the claim that Darren Waller is holding out due to wanting more money. However, it is something to consider since Waller hasn’t practiced in ten days, with no clear injury reported by the team.

The Facts

August 2nd was the last time we observed Darren Waller practicing. In the clip, Waller is working on pass blocking with Alex Leatherwood to his left. He looks perfectly fine while running drills and nothing seems wrong with his right ankle (more on his ankle later).

August 3rd was the first day Waller was missing from practice. That same day, we heard Gruden mention Waller not practicing for the first time in his press conference. “With Waller out today we changed the script a little bit today,” Gruden said.

Coach Gruden was referencing how Ruggs and Edwards were making big plays in camp, but at no point did he say anything regarding an injury to Waller.

From August 3rd to August 7th, Waller was not observed during the on-field portion of practice. Although the belief was he was still in the building.

August 8th was the first-day reporters saw Waller. However, this practice was different than the past practices. On this day, fans were allowed to watch the team practice for the time, live, in Allegiant Stadium.

Waller was there in sweats and a hoodie, but again, he was on the sideline. There were other stars that didn’t participate during practice that day as well, including Josh Jacobs and Maxx Crosby, so Waller not practicing for this open practice isn’t a huge deal.

During player introductions, Waller was seen running out on the field with no noticeable limp or injury. An image taken while Waller was speaking to Eric Allen, looks to show his right ankle wrapped, but it’s not clear if it is an ankle wrap:

Also on August 8th, Jon Gruden had a presser and a reporter asked Gruden if he had an update on Darren Waller, since he had been out a few days up to that point.

Gruden responded, “I think he’s going to be okay. We are being very careful with him. He’s working out very hard with the trainers. And it’s given us an opportunity, honestly, to look at the other tight ends and some other receivers. We’ve got a competitive camp. I think you saw the ball distribution today. We didn’t run Jacobs much either. We know what those guys can do. We’re anxious to see who their partners are going to be when the season starts.”

August 10th was the next practice available to the media. Darren Waller was seen working out with the Raiders trainers, but he again didn’t work with the team who were in full pads. If he has an ankle injury, that could make sense.

August 11th on-field portion of practice was canceled.

August 12th is today, and once again, Darren Waller was not seen at practice. Gruden was not asked during his presser about Waller.

Why Waller could want a new Contract

Darren Waller is one of the league’s best tight ends. Jon Gruden signed Darren Waller from the Ravens practice squad after seeing the tight end working out before the Raiders vs Ravens game on November 25th, 2018.

One day later, on November 26th, 2018, Jon Gruden signed Darren Waller. His initial contract with the Raiders was 2-yrs $1.35M (For the 2018 and 2019 seasons).

Waller didn’t play much in 2018, but in 2019, he started the season off extremely well and the Raiders rewarded him by giving him a 4-yr $29.8M extension which locked him in through 2023. Like with any contract a player signs early, the backend of that contract really favors the organization.

He is currently making $6.3M this season. He will get $6.75M in each of the next two seasons, which for one of the league’s best tight ends, is a huge steal for the Raiders.

At the moment, Waller ranks 11th in average contract value per year and 7th in cap hit for 2021 tight ends.

If any player – not on his rookie contract – is underpaid, Darren Waller is him. If Waller wants a raise, the Raiders will be inclined to give him one.

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