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Former Raiders first round pick DJ Hayden signs one-year deal with Lions

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The DJ Hayden era in Oakland is finally done. The man who the Raiders selected at 12 overall in the 2013 draft, and who Reggie McKenzie said he would have selected at 3 overall even if the team hadn’t traded down, has signed a free agent deal with the Lions, according to a report by Adam Caplan.

A one-year deal is appropriate for Hayden who has a lot to prove after four seasons of not living up to his draft status as the Raiders new regime’s first ever first round pick. One that was fairly widely panned from the beginning due in part to greater needs, but also because he was considered a reach in the top half of the first round. Especially coming off a life threatening injury to his heart just months earlier that required emergency surgery.

He had attended one OTA practice before he was sent to the hospital for another surgery to clear out scar tissue from his abdomen that had him miss the entire offseason and attend training camp wearing a red non-contact jersey. He was cleared to play the season, but was lost to a knee injury midway through the season. Another injury would begin his second season with him on the PUP list, ultimately costing him to miss a full calendar year of football.

He has been healthy for the most part since then, but always had issues with penalties and lapses in coverage, while showing only flashes of the player the Raiders hoped he would be coming out of Houston.

Last offseason, the Raiders opted not to pick up Hayden’s fifth year option. Then last season, in a last ditch effort to salvage him, they tried him at slot corner. Prior to that, he had only played on the boundary. Even when he wasn’t starting, he would come in the game and another cornerback would play inside.

The experiment worked about as well as expected. That is to say it didn’t. TJ Carrie eventually stepped back into the slot corner role and outperformed Hayden.