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Hunter Renfrow: Raiders’ slot machine or odd man out?

Las Vegas could go one of two ways with wide receiver; keep him or trade him

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow is part of a very crowded WR room in the desert. He’s a very capable slot receiver when healthy, however.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

A forgettable 2022 campaign is not the ideal follow up to a banner season for either Hunter Renfrow or the Las Vegas Raiders. After establishing himself as a weapon of a slot wide receiver in 2021, Renfrow fell extremely short of expectations this past season.

The Silver & Black did as a whole suffered a face plant, but Renfrow’s tribulations is a solid microcosm of the floundering season that was 2022.

A season after establishing himself as a go-to receiver and putting up a career-high 1,038 yards and nine touchdowns on 103 receptions (128 targets) in 17 games in 2021, Renfrow played in only 10 games last season and produced a career-low stat line of 330 yards and two touchdowns on 36 catches (50 targets).

By The Numbers

  • Hunter Renfrow, wide receiver
  • 27 years old, 5-foot-10, 185 pounds
  • 2022 Stats: 10 games (1 start), 36 catches, 330 yards, two touchdowns; 11 punt returns, 74 yards; 377 snaps on offense (61 percent of team’s total offensive snaps), 26 snaps on special teams (10 percent of unit total).
Arizona Cardinals v Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow fumbles as he’s hit by Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons during the two team’s Week 2 matchup. Arizona scooped up the fumble and returned it to score the game-winner in overtime.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Sure, point to the new offense head coach Josh McDaniels installed as a reason for struggle. But the injury bug bit Renfrow hard this past season. He suffered a concussion in the wild Week 2 overtime loss that saw him fumble and the Arizona Cardinals picking it up for the game-winning scoop and score. He missed the next two games. Then, in Week 9 (early November), Renfrow suffered an abdominal strain that was serious enough he was placed on injured reserve and missed the next five games before returning Week 15 in mid-December.

Which brings us to 2023.

The 27-year-old Renfrow is one of 11 wide receivers on the offseason 90-man roster and is the fifth-most expensive Raider in terms of 2023 cap hit at $13.126 million. For reference top wideouts Davante Adams is the third-most expensive Raider at $14.74 million and newcomer Jakob Meyers is the eight-most expensive player on the roster at $7.28-plus million.

According to Over The Cap, Las Vegas has $3,962,129 in cap space, giving the team the seventh least cap room amongst the 32 teams.

Which begs the question: Is Renfrow still the Raiders’ slot machine or is he the odd man out? Las Vegas can go one of two ways with No. 13: Keep him or trade him.

A healthy Renfrow can perhaps rekindle the production of 2021 and be an ideal slot receiver in McDaniels offense. New quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo thrives on quick passes and throwing over the middle and Renfrow can be a tremendous asset for the new signal caller. He can gain separation quickly and operate out of the slot giving Garoppolo a reliable target.

But is Renfrow’s cap number too great?

The disparity in coin spent on the Raiders offense ($136.63-plus million) as opposed to the defense ($87.02-plus million) is quite apparent and perhaps the luxury of paying wide receivers quality money is too rich for Las Vegas’ blood. Add into the mix that 45.7 percent of Renfrow’s money is guaranteed (according to Over The Cap), perhaps keeping him a Raider would be more fiscally responsible.

But as noted in the above tweet, the operative date for any move is June 1 for the Raiders. A trade post that date lessens the immediate dead money while giving Las Vegas cap space over time. If the Raiders were to trade Renfrow post June 1, the dead money hit would be $1,836,000 over four seasons ($7.344 million), according to Over The Cap. And the cap savings would be $11.29 million and $11.882 million in 2023 and 2024.

Las Vegas does have other options in the slot in Meyers, third-round rookie Tre Tucker, even Adams. And with a very crowded wide receiver room, moving Renfrow may be a proper move.

The Raiders are going to have tough decisions building a 53-man roster this offseason. And Renfrow may represent one of the most agonizing choices general manager Dave Ziegler and McDaniels have to make.