HENDERSON, Nev. — With training camp drawing to a close, the Las Vegas Raiders still haven’t seen any sign of Josh Jacobs. The All-Pro running back, who has refused to sign the franchise tag, hasn’t suited up since last season and remains away from the team in a show of dissatisfaction with his inability to come to terms on a long-term extension.
The Raiders have refused to make Jacobs available in trade conversations, league sources told The Athletic. The team also has no plan to rescind his franchise tag and has yet to make an increased one-year offer similar to the one running back Saquon Barkley reportedly received from the New York Giants.
That seems to leave little recourse for Jacobs other than to play for the Raiders this season. But it’s unclear when — or if — that’ll happen.
“I have no update on J.J.,” coach Josh McDaniels said when asked about Jacobs on Wednesday. “Nothing’s changed there.”
General manager Dave Ziegler echoed that sentiment Thursday: “Nothing new to add right now on that, so we’ll just keep pushing forward.”
When asked about whether a trade could become a possibility at some point, Ziegler declined to get into it. “Any trade speculation and all that stuff, organizationally, that’s nothing that we would ever address on any player,” Ziegler said.
🔴🎥Live: Dave Ziegler and Champ Kelly address the media from the Intermountain Health Performance Center. https://t.co/P3w4WWSA3F
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) August 24, 2023
The Raiders’ first game of the regular season is only 17 days away. They remain confident that Jacobs will return before then, but the more time that passes, the less prepared he will be to play against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 10. And even if Jacobs is back, it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to handle his typical workload right away. The Raiders may not need second-year running back Zamir White to start, but he’ll likely need to contribute far more than he did as a rookie.
“He’s shown a lot of growth and maturity,” Ziegler said. “If I was going to pinpoint a specific area where we’ve grown with him, it’s in the passing game: as a route runner, in pass protection, his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. And that’s because he puts a lot of extra work in. …
“It’s about finding your own style and what it takes for you. Zamir has done that both on the field and then when it comes to the playbook and things like that. He’s poured into it, and he’s started to see the results.”
Whatever happens with Jacobs, the Raiders — and every other team in the NFL — will have to cut their roster down to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. And, once the waiver-claim period ends at noon ET on Wednesday, they’ll be able to sign up to 16 players to their practice squad. They’ll also have the option to use an extra roster spot through the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program to hold onto edge rusher David Agoha.
“We’re coming down to the wire here and starting to really look into those individual position battles and those individual spots,” Ziegler said. “This year, it’s going to be a little bit more difficult. You hope to have built competition where it’s not always clear cut, and I’d say we have some tougher decisions to make this year than we did last year.”
The Raiders want to be competitive this season, but the front office knows this is a young team building for the future. There’s a cache of players who may not be able to contribute much this year who they would still like to keep in the building.
“You can’t just do everything in a short-term window,” McDaniels said Wednesday. “We know that there are some young players that are developing that, ultimately, they are not what they’re going to be yet. But you have to make an educated decision on whether or not you feel like, through continued work and effort from the player and the coaches, that that’ll change for the better in certain ways and ultimately impact the team.”
Those are the types of players who are usually stashed on the practice squad if there isn’t room on the active roster, but there’s always the risk they could be claimed by another team either before or during the season. That’s a balancing act that Ziegler and his advisers manage in concert with the coaching staff.
“One of the more difficult parts of this decision-making process is weighing the immediate versus the future,” Ziegler said. “And, at the same time, we subscribe to a philosophy that it doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter who you are or what it is. You earn a spot on the team based on your performance on the field.”
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It’s important to note that the Raiders have also done their due diligence in scouting other teams. That’s partly to prepare for the season, but also to make determinations about who may become available via trade or the waiver wire.
“It’s all hands on deck right now evaluating all 31 other rosters,” Ziegler said. “There’s a lot of film being watched, there’s a lot of evaluations taking place and there’s a lot of conversations about our roster compared to other players that may be available. We feel like we’re in a good spot.”
The Raiders’ long-term goal from a roster-building standpoint is to add an influx of homegrown talent. That takes time to come together, but it remains important for the young players brought in by the current regime to show they can contribute to winning games.
“We’ll all be measured on wins and losses,” Ziegler said. “We’d love to see our young players that we’ve invested in continue to grow and continue to improve throughout the season. When you’re getting to the end of the season and you have a lot of guys that have contributed to a winning season, that’s really what we’re focused on and how we’re going to gauge it.”
• The Raiders had 12 players who didn’t practice Thursday: running back Brittain Brown, receiver Chris Lacy, tight end Jacob Hollister, guard Dylan Parham, defensive ends Chandler Jones and Isaac Rochell, defensive tackles Bilal Nichols and Adam Butler, cornerbacks Marcus Peters, Jakorian Bennett and Brandon Facyson and safety Marcus Epps. When asked Wednesday about injuries, McDaniels didn’t provide any specific updates.
• The Raiders will play the Dallas Cowboys at 5 p.m. PT on Saturday in their third and final preseason game. Unlike last week against the Los Angeles Rams, the Raiders aren’t expected to play a significant number of starters.
• Next week, the Raiders are scheduled to practice Tuesday through Thursday. After that, it’s on to Week 1 of the regular season.
(Photo: Jeff Bottari / Getty Images)
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