It’s Not You, It’s Me: Top NFL Free Agent Meets With Raiders Then Passes on Signing, but Will ‘Remain in Touch’
Training camps are a week old, and now the season is just about a month away. Teams are figuring out their depth charts and their rosters, and the last of the available free agents are deciding who they will play for in 2021. One of the best free agents left, linebacker K.J. Wright, is still available and recently met with the Las Vegas Raiders.
As much as the Raiders could use a standout defensive player like Wright, the former Seattle Seahawk told the Silver and Black, thanks, but no thanks. He left the team’s facility, giving them the NFL equivalent of, “it’s not you, it’s me.”
K.J. Wright is one of the top NFL free agents left on the market
Very few impact free agents left on the market with the season a month away. One player who can still make a difference in 2021 is linebacker K.J. Wright.
The Seattle Seahawks drafted the former Mississippi State Bulldog in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft with pick No. 99. Wright spent the first 10 seasons of his career with Pete Carroll and company in the Pacific Northwest.
The 2016 Pro Bowler is a versatile player that can play strong side, weak side, or middle linebacker when needed. During his decade in Seattle, he played 144 games and racked up 941 tackles, good for fifth-most among active players. He also had 66 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks, nine fumble recoveries, and six interceptions.
Wright brings leadership and experience to his team as well. He’s played in 15 career playoff games and was part of the 2013 (winning) and 2014 (losing) Seahawks Super Bowl teams.
Wright visited the Las Vegas Raiders but left without signing with them
Wright and the Las Vegas Raiders seem like a perfect fit. The team has finished in the bottom half of the NFL in yards allowed the last three seasons. With an offense in the top third of the league in yards gained the previous two seasons, an upgraded D would make the Raiders a playoff team.
In addition to the need, the Raiders offer Wright a sense of familiarity as well. Las Vegas’ new defensive coordinator is Gus Bradley, who was the DC for Wright and the Seahawks for the linebacker’s first two years in the league.
With all this in place, Wright visited Vegas on August 5 and seemed likely to sign with the team. However, the defensive star surprisingly left without signing a deal.
According to NFL insider Ian Rapoport, the reason Wright walked out on the Raiders is that “He has interest from a few teams.” He did reportedly leave the door open a bit for the Raiders as he apparently “will remain in touch with Vegas.” Translation: Don’t call me, I’ll call you.
The Raiders may be having internal issues
Wright’s dismissal of the Raiders doesn’t seem like a need or a scheme issue. It may point to larger organizational problems at play.
Since June, four high-level executives have resigned from their position with the Raiders. Team President Marc Badain left the team in July, saying that after seeing the completion of Allegiant Stadium through, “It is time for me to focus on my family and look ahead to new pursuits,” per CBS Sports.
In addition to Badain, three other Raiders front office have resigned since June. This includes CFO Ed Villanueva, club controller Araxie Grant, and V.P. of strategy and business development Brandon Doll.
These resignations could just be the normal flow of business and the final dominoes falling in the team’s move to a new city. That said, if you’re a Las Vegas Raiders conspiracy theorist, these resignations, combined with Wright’s unexpected refusal to sign, could be the smoke that points to a raging fire within the highest levels of the organization.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference