Gabe Jackson

How Raiders drafting guard John Simpson could impact Gabe Jackson

How Raiders drafting guard John Simpson could impact Gabe Jackson

The Raiders made just one draft move along the offensive line, but it was a big one. Literally and figuratively.

By drafting 6-foot-4, 320-pound guard John Simpson from Clemson, the Raiders took advantage of a draft day fall that delivered a player many analysts believe will be a long-term NFL starter by his second season in the NFL.

The Raiders traded up in the fourth round to reel in Simpson with the 109th pick, and his addition gives them flexibility in how they manage their much improved offensive line. Specifically, it gives them options on what to do with veteran right guard Gabe Jackson, who is owed $9.6 million annually through 2022.

Click to read Review-Journal's story on Simpson

Gabe Jackson still Raiders' starting right guard despite recent moves

Gabe Jackson still Raiders' starting right guard despite recent moves

The Raiders loaded up on guards this offseason.

They re-signed Denzelle Good and Jordan Devey, veterans with plenty of starting experience. They added Eric Kush later in unrestricted free agency. Then general manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden took Clemson guard John Simpson on Saturday with the No. 109 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

It was no surprise, then, that Mayock was asked in his post-draft conference call what all those moves meant for Gabe Jackson. It was a valid question, to be sure.

Jackson reportedly was available in trade, and has been for a while now. NFL Network reported the asking price was not high. Jackson is set to make $9.6 million in 2020 and each season through 2022, though none of his annual salaries are guaranteed at this time, and the Raiders will be right up against the salary cap after signing their newly minted draft class.

[RAIDERS TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Everything mentioned above makes it possible the Raiders could want to move on from Jackson, who also has battled significant injuries the past two seasons.

Mayock insists that’s not the case, though, and none of the moves made this offseason should imply otherwise.

“He’s our starting right guard,” Mayock said. “We signed Kush and Devey, and those guys play all three internal positions. They’re inside guys. I think Gabe Jackson is our starting right guard. That’s exactly what it says.”

[RELATED: How Mayock, Gruden used Raiders' 2020 NFL Draft picks]

The Raiders love Jackson, who's a quality locker-room presence and a damn good guard when healthy. He and Trent Brown form a formidable right flank that’playerss tough to stop in the run game and to beat in pass protection when both players are going strong.

The Raiders' offensive line is better when Jackson is on it, and he’s an upgrade over the other options at right guard currently on the roster.

NFL Draft 2020: How Raiders' John Simpson fits on offensive line

NFL Draft 2020: How Raiders' John Simpson fits on offensive line

The Raiders' Clemson connection remains strong. They selected three former Tigers last year. They added two in as many picks this season, taking coverage linebacker Tanner Muse late Friday night and guard John Simpson early Saturday morning.

The Silver and Black traded up to the No. 109 overall selection to take one of the top-tier guards in this draft, a 6-foot-4, 321-pound road grader with the talent required to be an NFL starter.

This move certainly leaves one to wonder if Gabe Jackson has played his final game as a Raider. The 2014 third-round pick has been on the trading block in recent weeks, with NFL Network reporting the price isn’t that high.

Jackson has battled injury in recent seasons and is set to make $9.6 million per year on a contract that runs through 2022 and no longer contains any guaranteed money.

The Raiders only have one pick remaining, at No. 139 overall, after trading up with the Detroit Lions to take Simpson.

Head coach Jon Gruden likes and respects Jackson, though his salary is cost-prohibitive for a team that is right up against the salary cap after allocating money to sign their draft class.

[RAIDERS TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

It was smart for the Raiders to load up on interior lineman considering Jackson’s cost and recent injury history and Richie Incognito playing well but at age 36.

The Raiders re-signed Denzelle Good, someone capable of being a full-time starter. Jordan Devey also returns as an experienced backup on the interior line. They also signed Eric Kush in free agency and continued to stock up on the inside with Simpson.

[RELATED: NFL Draft 2020: Bryan Edwards, Henry Ruggs give Raiders game-changing duo]

The Raiders certainly would hope he can be a long-term solution at either right or left guard and would compete with veterans for a chance to play early on in his career.

Simpson is a big and powerful interior lineman who stands up well to bull rushes and is solid blocking in space, though analysts say he’s a bit slow off the snap. He can play both guard spots and was excellent during his Clemson career. He was a consensus All-American in 2019 in his third year as a starter. 

He’s a quality player from a quality program who gives the Raiders freedom to make a Jackson trade or a cut if they see fit.

It also creates some financial wiggle room to add a free-agent signing after the NFL draft to add depth or plug the remaining holes on the roster as we move through the offseason.