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.
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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.
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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.