HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — As chants of “R-A-I-D-E-R-S!” rang out from five tents filled with fans during Wednesday’s practice at the team’s facility, the sight of three key Las Vegas players making plays ignited further roars of applause.
Tight end Darren Waller hauled in a pass on an out pattern at one end of the field. At the other, running back Josh Jacobs juked linebacker Denzel Perryman during a short pass route. Shortly later, Perryman forced a fumble with a huge hit on the goal line.
And while they’re leaders in their respective units — and the trio comes with no guarantees for their futures with the team — all three had similar mindsets during the first week of camp.
“I’m focused on playing right now,” said Waller, who ranks second among tight ends since 2019 with 252 receptions and 3,006 yards receiving. “My agent handles that. Whatever is going on there is whatever’s going on there. But whatever the outcome is of that, I’m here and I’m playing.”
One of the top players in the NFL at his position, Waller’s $7.5 million annual average value ranks 17th in salary among all tight ends.
And while he’s set to make $6.8 million this season with no guaranteed money left on his deal, others have been locked up.
Defensive end Maxx Crosby signed a $94 million extension in March, quarterback Derek Carr got an extension worth $121 million in April, and receiver Hunter Renfrow received a $32 million extension in June.
Long before that, the Raiders kept two of the top special teams players in the league by extending punter A.J. Cole and kicker Daniel Carlson in December.
Yet Waller, Perryman and Jacobs have been at every practice, preparing for the preseason opener against Jacksonville on Aug. 4 in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.
“I think the fact that we had everyone show up and everybody just going about their work … speaks a lot to the belief this team has for each other,” Cole said after Wednesday’s practice. “Guys on winning teams get paid, it sort of just works itself out. Being around these guys for a couple years, I really just have so much respect and love for the character they have and the hard work. It just speaks a lot to the buy-in we have, from top to bottom.”
Perryman is entering the final year of his contract and is set to make a base salary of $1.1 million after finishing sixth in the league with a franchise-high 154 tackles last season.
“My agent Ron Butler is handling that — I just want to play football,” said Perryman, whose career season earned him his first Pro Bowl selection in 2021.
With Jacobs, who won a national championship with Alabama in 2017 and was drafted 24th overall in 2019, it was a matter of the team announcing it wasn’t exercising a fifth-year option. Every NFL draft choice signs a four-year contract, with each first-round selection’s contract including a team option for a fifth season.
Jacobs isn’t taking it personal.
“I really don’t too much think about it, honestly,” said Jacobs, whose 3,087 yards rushing leads all rushers drafted since 2019. “I’m a firm believer in the work that you put in is going to pay off for itself. And I had to be here either way. And this is where I want to be. So, I didn’t have no problem with it. (It) gave me more of a reason to come in every day, jell with the guys, and work, so that’s how I looked at it.”
Waller said while he remains focused on his time in Las Vegas, “whether it’s 10 years or whatever,” and he continues to do his job on the field while his agent negotiates with the team, he acknowledged it can be tedious when trying to compartmentalize with an attempt to focus solely on football.
“As a human being, you want to think about things like that,” Waller said. “I feel like adopting the mindset of when I’m here, what can I give to the team? As opposed to what I can get. … We’re humans and we can get distracted, but I feel like taking that approach has definitely helped me to focus on just what I can do within the day here.”
Freelance writer Poppy Cartledge contributed to this report.
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