Once viewed as a key building block in Oakland, D.J. Hayden has been relegated to an afterthought in the Raiders' revamped secondary this offseason.
Although the team recently declined the fifth-year option on Hayden's rookie contract, coach Jack Del Rio insists "it's never too late" for the former first-round pick to turn his career around.
"DJ Hayden had a really good spring. He really did," Del Rio raved this week, via the San Francisco Chronicle. "I'm excited about his development."
The Raiders signed veteran Sean Smith to pair with 2015 waiver-wire gem David Amerson as the starting cornerbacks, leaving Hayden to battle T.J. Carrie and Neiko Thorpe for snaps in nickel packages. Del Rio believes Hayden is well suited to the slot due to his quickness and intelligence.
An injury-prone draft bust to date, Hayden has a chance to "redefine" himself this summer with his head coach's support.
"As a player, it's never too late," Del Rio offered. "You can redefine yourself, turn the corner and peel labels off that maybe people have for you and create your own. I feel like he's on his way to doing that this year."