The Las Vegas Raiders made a surprise move on cutdown day, sending third-round pick Lynn Bowden along with a sixth-round pick to Miami for a fourth-rounder.
The decision to cut bait on a third-round selection was a shocker given the bonus money already paid and the draft capital used. Saying goodbye to an early-round pick before he’s even seen the field is a rarity.
Bowden’s situation, however, had difficulty written all over it from the start. A former receiver-turned-quarterback was attempting to become a running back at the pro level. Combine an already difficult position switch with a scrapped offseason program, no preseason games and an odd training camp, and this year wasn’t conducive to such a move.
Despite a report out of Vegas that the Raiders were concerned with off-field issues, general manager Mike Mayock said Sunday that the decision to trade Bowden had only to do with the rookie’s on-field play.
“No. 1, it was a football decision only,” Mayock said Sunday, via The Athletic. “Character, off-the-field, the kid did absolutely nothing wrong. We did all our homework on the kid off the field. He worked his tail off. He came to work every day. So this was completely a football decision. It had nothing to do with anything else.
“Quite frankly, I think the position change is a difficult one in any year but it’s exaggerated in a COVID-19 year with no offseason. You’re taking a kid that was a slot receiver in ’18, a quarterback in ’19 and asking him to play running back in ’20. Really the only other thing I’m going to say about it is that it was my call. He was not able to play today at the level expected. Because of that, we felt like we had to make a move. Again, it’s 100 percent on me.”
Bowden reportedly didn’t look explosive during Raiders camp and struggled mightily when asked to pass protect, which shouldn’t have been unexpected given the position switch.
Mayock taking the blame for the busted experiment acknowledges the difficulty in an athletic player making a position switch. Blaming COVID-19 is fair, but Mayock could have anticipated the issue given that the draft had already been changed and it was possible to see at the time that much of the offseason program was going to be altered. True, he might not have guessed the preseason would have been wiped out, but we knew it wasn’t going to be a normal offseason.
In the end, the Raiders deciding it wasn’t worth hanging on to Bowden to give him more time to adjust speaks loudest. The best teams admit their mistakes and move on. We’ll see if Mayock and the Raiders were right in their evaluation that Bowden wouldn’t fit at RB.
The Dolphins reportedly plan to move the rookie back to WR, which could be a more natural spot for the athletic Bowden.