Gruden’s most significant personnel moves came early in his run, as he tore apart the young core of former general manager Reggie McKenzie’s teams. With two trades, Gruden dealt away cornerstones on both sides of the football in edge rusher Khalil Mack and wide receiver Amari Cooper. In return, he netted four high draft picks, including three first-rounders. Those selections became running back Josh Jacobs, cornerback Damon Arnette, safety Johnathan Abram and wide receiver Bryan Edwards.
These moves set back the franchise significantly. Jacobs has struggled with injuries and doesn’t have a role in the passing game at a position in which two-down backs are readily available for the veterans minimum. Arnette was responsible for the coverage breakdown on Ryan Fitzpatrick’s big play at the end of the crucial Week 16 loss to the Dolphins last season; he lost his starting job in camp and has been the subject of trade rumors. Abram missed all of his rookie season with an injury and was a mess in coverage in Year 2. He has been better this season, but his most notable moment has been getting stiff-armed by Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris. Edwards, the only one of the four not to be drafted in the first round, looks to be the most promising player among them.
Gruden repeatedly traded for veterans over the course of his tenure, and those moves almost universally failed. The most notable came when the team sent third- and fifth-round picks to the Steelers for receiver Antonio Brown, which failed in ignominious fashion before Brown ever suited up for the team.
I couldn’t fault the Raiders for that deal at the time, but Gruden’s other deals for wide receivers looked bad at first glance and got worse quickly. The Raiders sent a third-rounder to the Steelers for Martavis Bryant and then cut him at the end of camp. Defensive end Jihad Ward was shipped off for Ryan Switzer, who was then dealt away for a swap of late-round picks without having played for the team. The Raiders sent a fifth-rounder to the Bills for Zay Jones and a sixth-rounder to the Packers for Trevor Davis, who was cut after two and a half months. The Packers used that pick on Jon Runyan, who is now starting for Green Bay at guard.
Remember when, at the height of Silicon Valley X-Treem Tanking Mania, the Mack giveaway was named Sloan’s TRANSACTION OF THE YEAR? LOL to that.