Cornerback DJ Hadyen has underwhelmed since being drafted No. 12 overall in the 2013 draft. The Raiders traded back from the third selection to take the Houston cover man, who dealt with injury setbacks his first two seasons.
He was fully healthy last year, on a squad without an established cornerback. Hayden struggled to stand out in that group, ending up as the third and, at times, fourth option in his position group despite a full season’s health.
The Raiders now have free-agent signee Sean Smith and waiver claim David Amerson as starters, with TJ Carrie, Hayden and Neiko Thorpe as nickel and dime options.
Hayden will have to compete for a role this season.
Given that subpar three-year run, it’s not surprising the Raiders would decline Hayden’s fifth-year option, a clause built into all first-round draft picks' contracts. They did so on Monday, the final day teams can exercise these options, CSNCalifornia.com has learned.
Hayden’s fifth-year option would’ve been worth $8 million. Fifth-year options for players outside the Top 10 are worth an average of high salaries at the position group. Also, they are only guaranteed for injury.
Hayden is now set to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Declining the option doesn’t mean he won’t continue as a Raiders beyond this season. If the light comes on and he plays better, the team is free to re-sign him after the season.
Hayden is scheduled to make $675,000 in base salary with a $1.1 million roster bonus due to start training camp, but all of his money is guaranteed. There is no salary cap relief if he’s cut before the regular season or before camp.
ESPN first reported the news.