Raiders slated for catastrophic season after losing top lineman to torn triceps
Left tackle Jared Veldheer had a sore triceps keep him from practicing on Monday, and the team decided to give him an MRI to see if the ailment was serious. The news that the MRI revealed was just about as bad it gets - Veldheer has a torn triceps that could keep him out for the entire 2013 season.
The Raiders plan to place Veldheer on injured reserve/designated to return, which means that he will be ineligible for the first seven weeks of the season, but could return for Week 8, though that would require an incredibly speedy recovery. The Raiders remain hopeful that Veldheer will be able to return this season, but a debut before Thanksgiving is quite a stretch. It's worth noting, however, that Ray Lewis tore his triceps last season and returned less than three months later - three months from now would put us exactly two weeks before Thanksgiving Day.
Regardless of when Veldheer is able to return, this is an enormous blow for the Raiders. Veldheer was the one piece of the Raiders' offensive line that kept it from being one of the worst units in the league (center Stefen Wisniewski is also very good, but his position isn't nearly as pivotal as Veldheer's). What makes matters even worse is that the Raiders have minimal depth behind Veldheer, as his likely replacement appears to be monumental draft bust Alex Barron, who hasn't played a down since 2010.
Veldheer's absence will make it nearly impossible for quarterback Matt Flynn to make downfield reads and let deep routes develop. This is also a huge blow to Darren McFadden's stock, as he was hoping to bounce back in a contract year behind a power blocking scheme that Veldheer excels in. I recently named McFadden as one of my undervalued fantasy running backs for this season, but I'll now be avoiding him on draft day. The chances of any Raiders players making a consistent impact in fantasy leagues appear very slim.
What makes this devastating for Veldheer is that he is entering a contract year and had a chance to cash in on a very lucrative deal with a strong season. Pro Football Focus' 9th ranked left tackle last year, Veldheer could take a financial hit if he can't return midseason in his 2012 form.
I guess there are a couple silver linings for the Raiders. The first is that they may be able to save a few bucks when re-signing Veldheer next season. The other is that they are now the heavy favorites to land the first overall pick in a 2014 NFL Draft that features one of the greatest prospects of recent history - South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney.
As for this season, however, expect Raiders fans to be tortured once again. As a Raiders fan myself, I was hoping for six wins - a mere six-win season would have had me satisfied going into the spring. After this news, I'm no longer sure if six wins is a realistic goal.
UPDATE: ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported that Veldheer's triceps tear is only partial, and that he will be available for much of the season. If that is the case, the injured reserve/designated to return list appears unlikely, as it would hold Veldheer out for nearly half of the season. The Raiders are going to rush their most important lineman back to action as quickly as possible, so this is a situation to keep an eye on.