Originally published on Silver & Black Report on March 7, 2014
The Oakland Raiders have many holes they must fill through the draft and free agency with one big glaring hole being a play-making wide receiver.
While the Raiders have a solid young wide receiving corps that can continue to grow, they have lacked a true number-one receiver since Randy Moss departed Oakland after the 2006 season. In fact, the Raider have not had a receiver haul in 1,000+ yards since Moss did it in 2005 (1,005 yards). Rod Streater came close to it last season but finished with just 888 receiving yards when the season ended.
Whether it's through the draft or through upcoming free agency, the Raiders will look to obtain a play-making wide receiver so we should take a look at what wide receivers are available through free agency.
Hakeem Nicks, age 26 - Some of Raider Nation hoped that Al Davis would draft Nicks in the 2009 NFL Draft but instead he selected the speedster Darrius Heyward-Bey, who didn't fulfill the vacancy for a number-one wide receiver. Nicks fell to 29th overall and went to the New York Giants instead, where he saw success despite a couple of off-years the last two seasons. Nicks has two 1,000+ yard seasons under his belt during his five years in the NFL and is just 26 years old. Questions arose last season regarding his motivation and his health due to knee issues but if he is motivated and healthy is possesses the talent to be a number-one wide receiver in the league. Despite having a down year last year with just 56 receptions for 896 yards and no touchdowns (mind you, the Giants offense was a mess all around last year), Nicks still finished with eight more yards than Streater (Raiders leading receiver) and just four receptions less. If Nicks could be motivated by a short-term contract that would allow him to cash in again in a couple of years, he could be a dominant receiver and the number-one receiver the Raiders have missed.
Eric Decker, age 26 - Like Nicks, Decker is just 26 years old but is coming off two 1,000+ yard years with future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning throwing the ball to him. Decker seems to have a full understanding of the NFL wide receiver route tree but it isn't yet known whether he is a true number-one wide receiver. Problems sometimes arise with free agent wide receivers coming from dominant offensive systems where the wide receivers turn out to be not as good out of that system. There's no doubt that Decker will be commanding a fairly large contract because of his last two years and the it will be a sellers market for him. Decker has averaged 1,176 receiving yards per season for the last two years to go along with 24 receiving touchdowns over the two-year period.
Golden Tate, age 25 - Seattle seems to have re-signing Tate a high priority for this offseason so he may not even be a possibility for the Raiders but his name's worth mentioning. Despite being more of a slot receiver, Tate may be one of the more underrated free agent wide receivers this offseason. Tate has turned himself into one of the best slot receivers in the league to go along with explosive special teams play after a rough start to his career after being drafted in the second round out of Notre Dame. Tate is now a weapon with the ability to take the play to paydirt anytime he touches the ball with exceptional yards-after-catch ability. Tate is coming off of a 64-reception year for 898 yards and five touchdowns.
James Jones, age 29 - Jones, a San Jose State alum, will be 30 years old by season's beginning but has quietly produced two solid years in Green Bay. Slowed down by a mid-season PCL sprain last year, Jones appeared in 14 games and finished with 59 receptions for 817 yards and just three touchdowns. Jones started all 16 games in 2012 though and finished with 64 receptions for 784 yards and a league-high 14 touchdowns. To put it into perspective, the entire Raiders team had just 17 touchdown receptions all of last season. Granted Jones has stated that he would like to return to Green Bay, though any former Packer (or soon-to-be) is worth mentioning due to the obvious association with Reggie McKenzie and his history of bringing in former Packers. Jones may come at a cheaper price for the team he may land on. Jones' previous trip through free agency brought him to a three-year deal worth just over $9 million with the Packers, it will be interesting to see how much more teams value him now.
Emmanuel Sanders, age 27 - Sanders seems to be one of the more popular free agent wide receiver names to be thrown around this offseason, and for good reasons. At 27 years old, Sanders has already made a career out of attacking the slot and producing yards after the catch. Sanders' solid hands limited him to just two drops last season when playing in 796 offensive snaps for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sanders finished with a career-year last season with 67 receptions for 740 yards and six touchdowns after signing a one-year deal with the Steelers. It appears that Sanders is best suited in the slot as opposed to outside and it does not seem like he will develop into being a true number-one receiver that the Raiders need.
Other free-agent wide receivers not mentioned: Jason Avant, PHI; Kenny Britt, TEN; Julian Edelman, NE; Ted Ginn, CAR; Andre Roberts, ARI; Sidney Rice, SEA; Jacoby Jones, BAL; Mario Manningham, SF; Jerome Simpson, CIN; Brandon LaFell, CAR;