The Raiders problems are many but what seems to be getting a lot of attention beyond the quarterback position is at wide receiver. The organization has been searching for a “star” receiver for years with little success. Experts as well as fans are calling for the Raiders to use their first draft pick on the skill position but that may not be fruitful or even necessary.
Free agency has young, proven receivers to sign.
The Raiders wide receiving core has under achieved. There is no denying it. However, the instability at quarterback has presented a skewed look at what the current players can bring to the table. The four major receivers have skill sets worthy of playing in the NFL. If they are worth keeping for 2014 is the question and if they leave who should Oakland pick up?
First order of business is to let go of Jacoby Ford. He officially is a dud. His special teams play has been less than consistent and his wide receiver skills have a low ceiling due to his size. His contract is up and somehow he has been making more money than the other three starting receivers that have been contributing much more on the field.
Possible replacements included unrestricted free agents Domenik Hixon or Jacoby Jones. Both players have similar special team ability and are far more proven than Ford. Either player would probably be asking for $1.5 to 3.5 million a year deal but both players could contribute far more in the offense than Ford has. Whatever the solution is the first move is to wave bye-bye to Ford.
The Remaining three competent receivers on the Raiders are all unrestricted free agents come 2015. Andre Holmes showed the most explosive potential this season and was the highest ranked Raider receiver on profootballfocus.com coming in at 38th ranked in the NFL. At 6-4, 210 pounds he is a sizable target with great speed. He had a great game against Dallas in 2013, catching seven balls for 136 yards.
His 2-year $1.2 million deal according to spotrac.com is not a bad deal for the Raiders. They may want to restructure his contract for a multi-year deal in order to save future dollars. If Holmes has a breakout 2014 season he may be too expensive come 2015.
Rod Streater had a great 2013 season. With all the turmoil at quarterback he was a safety blanket. Holmes was up and down along with Denarius Moore but Streater was solid. He gained 888 yards on 60 receptions. His best performance was week 14 at the New York Jets. He hauled in seven catches for 130 yards. His stats were a big step up from the year before with the pocket –passing Carson Palmer. If he gets a stable situation under center he can easily be in 1,000 yard club next season.
His contract is much like Holmes. According to spotrac.com, he is making $483,000 a year and Raiders may want to sign him to a three or four year deal before free agency hits in 2015.
Denarius Moore seems to be the only receiver quandary. On one hand he scores touchdowns. Raiders.com shows that he has 17 touchdowns over his three seasons with the team with the high of seven coming in 2012. On the other hand he has been inconsistent in receptions and yardage. According to profootballfocus.com he only had 46 receptions on 612 snaps. He had a six catch 124 yard game against Denver in week three in 2013 and didn’t get close to that type of impact the rest of the season.
With his $557,513 per year tag (according to spotrac.com) the Raiders should simply hold out on Moore and have a “prove your worth” mentality in the 2014 season. The Raiders could also go in a different direction and trade Moore for a draft pick or two and look to free agency.
The free agency market is ripe with proven wide outs. The Raiders will have to cough up some dough but the top four guys that would fit the Raiders are worth it.
Anquan Boldin, Eric Decker and Riley Cooper are the cream of the free agency crop this offseason. In that precise order is how the Raiders should approach signing these guys. Boldin is coming off of a decent year with the San Francisco 49ers and is obviously already in the neighborhood. If he can take a slight pay cut from his $8.3 million contract he would look great in silver in black and bring much needed leadership to this team. A 3-yr $6.5 million contract would make the Raiders receiving core very formidable.
Eric Decker and Riley Cooper are very similar wide outs. Both have speed and are great possession receivers. They are coming off of very similar contracts and breakout years. They will both be demanding a big pay raise but their age and abilities warrant a long look. A three to four year contract around $3 million a year would be a fair price for their services.
The Raiders have many options in upgrading their receivers this year. Hopefully management doesn’t get overwhelmed with all the choices. Keeping Streater and Holmes is a clear yes. Both have the size and speed to get open. Next, free agency will be the place to find already proven players. Getting the most coveted players to come to a seemingly dysfunctional passing game will be the hard part. Either way it won’t be too tough to upgrade what was a bad year through the air.