Karl Joseph came on strong in 2018, but the safety still may not be a lock to be part of the Raiders’ long-term plans.
The team’s first-round draft pick from 2016 out of West Virginia, who turns 26 in early September, is set to begin his fourth year with Oakland. After struggling to get playing time over the first half of the 2018 season – and being rumored as a possible trade piece midway through the schedule – Joseph was given more snaps over the final half of the season and played the best football of his pro career. Over the final eight games he had 42 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception, and ended the season as the 23rd-ranked safety in the NFL by the analytic website Pro Football Focus.
But this offseason, the Raiders acquired former Rams starting safety Lamarcus Joyner and drafted safety Johnathan Abram in the first round – while also putting off a decision to extend Joseph’s contract.
Now, there are rumors across the NFL that Oakland general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden may be willing to trade Joseph sometime before the start of the regular season.
Robert Mays of The Ringer recently wrote that Joseph could be headed elsewhere.
"Oakland declined Joseph’s fifth-year option – despite his career year in 2018," he wrote. "Joseph will now make $2.1 million in base salary on the final year of his deal, which could make him an attractive option for any team looking for a low-risk, high-pedigree player to add to its secondary."
The Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers are among the teams that may be interested in trading for Joseph, according to reports.
Then again, the Raiders may want to see how this safety corps comes together during training camp, which is set to open next week. If Abram isn’t yet ready to start and use Joyner as the slot corner, the Raiders could keep Joseph and pick up his fifth-year option later.
Gruden certainly loved what he saw of Joseph over the second half of last season.
Said Gruden: "He asserted himself as a leader on this football team."