ALAMEDA — It turns out Jay Gruden had it all figured out when Washington put cornerback David Amerson on waivers 10 months ago.
“He might be a great player somewhere else in the next year or so,” Gruden told reporters last Sept. 21. “His career is not over by a long shot. He’s going to go somewhere else and play and probably play well.”
Fast forward to Tuesday, and Amerson, having excelled for the Raiders as a starting cornerback after being claimed on waivers, was talking to reporters on a conference call after signing a four-year contract extension.
“When I got released from Washington, things were cloudy but I never lost sight of the vision,” Amerson said. “I knew I had to do something to get my name out there. I’ve got an organization that’s behind me and supports me and it’s just a blessing, man.”
Amerson’s extension, according to Profootballtalk.com, will pay him $4 million in 2016 in salary and bonus money and he’s likely to make at least $17.5 million up to a maximum of more than $38 million if he becomes a Pro Bowl player.
That’s a considerable bump from the $880,123 Amerson was scheduled to make in the final year of the deal he signed with Washington as a second-round draft pick out of North Carolina State.
The way Amerson sees it, two things happened that turned things in his favor. First, the release forced Amerson to take a look in the mirror. Second, the Raiders provided a perfect landing spot in terms of coaching and scheme.
“You compare it to when I was in Washington, instead of going home and playing video games all night, it was a much different approach,” Amerson said. “I was going home and I was in my playbook, or watching film, or looking at my notes of whatever team we were playing that week. Just the little stuff.”
It helped that when Amerson arrived in Week 3, he was quickly inserted into the lineup in a system that suited him.
“Our scheme last year was, `You know what we’re in, so beat it,’ type stuff,” Amerson said. “It really made you go out and play fast and just really play football. I got there and barely knew the plays. We’re breaking the huddle and I’m asking guys, `What coverage is this?’ But I was able to compete and play fast football.”
Amerson’s season included a team-high 25 passes defensed, plus four interceptions, a forced fumble and a touchdown on an interception return.
After a promising rookie season in Washington, Amerson had a poor second season, and by Year 3 he found himself on the bench during the second game of the season before being waived.
According to statistical breakdowns by Profootballfocus.com, Amerson was the league’s most improved player from 2014 to 2015.
It doesn’t sound as if Amerson, at age 24, plans on backsliding to the days of late-night video game marathons. He has fallen in line with coach Jack Del Rio’s mission statement about disregarding the buzz which is building around the Raiders and their prospects in 2016.
“I think he put best — expectations are just expectations,” Amerson said. “You still have to go out there and do it and prove it, and the best way to go about that is just working. Guys have that mentality to work, and once you know you put 100 percent effort into your preparation, you’ve got to live with the results and let your talent and your wings spread.”