Damon Arnette was the 2020 Las Vegas Raiders’ first-round draft pick. They have now broken ties to both Arnette and Arnette from their first-round draft, just before the halfway point of their second season.
General manager Mike Mayock called it a “painful decision” to release Arnette on Monday but said it was necessary in response to a social media post with Arnette brandishing a gun and threatening to kill someone. Arnette also faces a lawsuit over hit-and run accidents that occurred in 2020.
“There have been a series of bad decisions over the last year or so, but we can’t stand for the video of Damon with a gun threatening to take a life,” Mayock said. “The content was unacceptable, contrary to our values and our owner Mark Davis has been very clear and very consistent that this is not how we will conduct ourselves in this community. The bottom line, the Raiders will not tolerate this type of behavior.”
Arnette was drafted 19th overall to be a starting cornerback with a pick acquired in the Khalil Mack trade despite what Mayock called “significant concerns” about his character. Arnette’s draft ranking was lower than most, but Raiders thought that they could help him develop on the field after speaking with his Ohio State coaches.
“Obviously in hindsight, we weren’t able to do it,” Mayock said. “I know a lot of people, including myself, we were all concerned about this, but at the time we thought it was an acceptable risk. Obviously, it’s painful on all levels.”
Arnette was cut less than one week ago. Following a fatal DUI collision, Henry Ruggs III (12th overall) was released. Ruggs, who was speeding at 156 MPH with blood alcohol levels twice that of the Nevada legal limit, was arrested. If convicted, he faces several felonies as well as jail time.
Mayock defended the Raiders’ evaluation of character in the draft, saying the picks in the others years have been good character players and Arnette and Ruggs were aberrations.
“We found the risk acceptable after doing more homework on Arnette than anybody we’ve done in the years I’ve been here,” Mayock said. “Obviously, we missed. That is 100% on me.”
Arnette was a struggle when he played. He suffered injuries last season, and then lost his job as a starting coach to Casey Hayward. Arnette had been placed on infirm reserve when he was released.
Two high-profile cases involving high draft picks raised concerns about the difficulty of young players finding work in Las Vegas due to temptations.
Mayock said the team does take the city into consideration when they look into acquiring players to determine how well they will fit but doesn’t believe it’s a major factor.
“We do have to be aware of Vegas. But my thing is in just about any mid- or big-sized city in the country, if you want to find trouble, you can find it,” he said.
Two first-round draft picks from 2020 and three third rounders were being considered to be part the rebuilding foundation, but it is likely that the class will go down in franchise history as the worst.