The Last Vegas Raiders cut two members of Jon Gruden’s first draft class in his second stint as coach, waiving defensive linemen Maurice Hurst and Arden Key before their fourth seasons with the team.
The Raiders made the moves Thursday after signing several other defensive linemen in free agency this offseason in hopes of improving a struggling defense.
The Raiders took Key with one of their two third-round picks in 2018 and used a fifth-round pick on Hurst in hopes that they would be fixtures on the line.
Hurst showed flashes but struggled to get consistent playing time. His eight sacks in three seasons rank second on the Raiders in that span and his pressure rate ranked 11th among defensive tackles with at least 10 pass rushes in 2020 and sixth in 2019, according to SportsInfo Solutions.
Hurst had a half-sack and 27 tackles in 11 games last season. He missed time with ankle and knee injuries, as well as one game on the COVID-19 list. He played only 25% of the defensive snaps last season.
Key had no sacks and 15 tackles in 14 games last season and never developed into the edge rusher the Raiders believed he could be. He had three sacks in 37 career games.
The Raiders wanted to upgrade the defensive line after ranking 29th in the NFL with 21 sacks last season and last from 2018-20 since trading Khalil Mack to Chicago.
Las Vegas gave defensive end Yannick Ngakoue a $26 million, two-year deal and also signed Quinton Jefferson, Solomon Thomas, Matt Dickerson and Darius Philon. The team also re-signed Johnathan Hankins and Kendal Vickers, creating a glut at the position that led to the release of Key and Hurst.
The moves to let go of Key and Hurst leave just three players remaining from the nine-person draft class. First-round tackle Kolton Miller got a contract extension this offseason, third-round tackle Brandon Parker remains as a reserve who could compete for a starting spot this season and seventh-round receiver Marcel Ateman didn’t appear in a game last season when he spent time on the practice squad.
The Raiders also released fourth-string quarterback Kyle Sloter.
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