ALAMEDA – Raiders defensive lineman Jihad Ward played a ton as a rookie, mostly out of necessity. The 2016 second-round pick moved way down on the depth chart the following year, with other options healthy and playing far better.
The Illinois product was a healthy scratch most of the season, and didn’t impressed a new Raiders coaching staff led by Jon Gruden this season.
He didn’t stand much of a chance to make the 53-man roster, especially after the Raiders selected defensive tackles P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst in this year’s NFL Draft.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said Dallas called about Ward, and that he was expendable due to the draft additions along the defensive line.
Ward was traded to Dallas for receiver Ryan Switzer on Saturday afternoon, shortly after the Raiders made their last scheduled pick. The Cowboys first announced the transaction.
It's hard to imagine Ward had even a short-term future in Oakland -- he was behind three incumbent defensive tackles, with two draft picks coming in -- so getting anything for him was a coup.
“When they called, it kind of opened doors," McKenzie said on Saturday. "Bottom line is we drafted two interior guys and that kind of opened the door, and I was willing to listen. They had a player that they were willing to let go and we want some competition as a returner. He’s a slot receiver, so it made it easy for me with that decision and thought it was a good way to upgrade our football team.”
Switzer was Dallas’ fourth-round pick last year, and didn’t establish himself as an offensive player. He was a solid return man, averaging 8.8 yards per punt return, which includes an 83-yard touchdown.
Switzer became expendable after Dallas traded for receiver/return man Tavon Austin earlier on Saturday.
Ward had 32 tackles and a sack in two years with the Raiders.