Under Al Davis, two things were certain about the Raiders: They were going to draft speed and they were going to overpay someone in free agency. Whether it be DeAngelo Hall (7 years, $70 million), Lamont Jordan (5 years, $27.5 million), Javon Walker (6 years, $55 million), or Tommy Kelly (7 years, $50.5 million), Davis has always paid more than market value for over-the-hill players.
Reggie McKenzie has stopped all of the crazy spending, but may need to break out the checkbook to lure top free agents to Oakland. With his job surely on the line this year, McKenzie will need to make a big splash in free agency if he hopes to lead this team back to excellence.
The biggest hole on the Raiders roster is easily wide receiver. The Raiders had trouble stretching the field, getting open, making catches… basically everything. In order to give Derek Carr the best chance at succeeding in the NFL, the Raiders have to bring at least 2 starting-caliber WRs via free agency and the draft.
Assuming Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant aren’t going to hit the open market, here are the top targets for the Oakland Raiders:
Target 1: Jeremy Maclin
Maclin bet on himself last year, signing a one-year contract with the Eagles in hopes of landing a bigger deal in 2015. His gamble paid off as he had a career season in 2014 with 85 catches, 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. He will likely be the best WR on the market come March.
Pros: Maclin is only 6’0 but has an incredible skill set. He runs great routes, can go over the middle, can stretch the field and seems to benefit from blown coverages more than any receiver not named T.Y. Hilton. Pat Shurmur, his offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, is rumored to be one of the front runners for the head coaching job in Oakland and knows how to get the most out of Maclin. Another HC candidate is Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. Hamilton’s deep ball offense plays to Maclin’s strengths
Cons: Maclin has a history of injury problems. He tore his ACL before the 2013 season, causing him to miss the entire year. He also has a problem staying healthy week-to-week, having missed games in every season he’s been in the league except 2010.
Contract: 5 years, $50 million, $24 million guaranteed.
Target 2: Randall Cobb
Rarely does a player of Cobb’s age and skill hit the open market, but it is likely going to happen with the Packer’s wideout. Green Bay rarely over-pays in free agency and Cobb seems poised to break the bank come March. Cobb, like Maclin, had a career season in his contract year, snatching 91 catches, 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Pros: Cobb is the perfect WR to help Derek Carr develop. He runs great routes, is great in the slot, has great hands and is only 24 years old. Cobb also is one of the leagues best wide receivers in the open field. He has great vision and can often find a hole in the defense when the quarterback is scrambling.
Cons: Cobb, at 5’10 is very short for a WR. There is also a possibility that his career will tank once he doesn’t have one of the best QBs of all time throwing to him.
Contract: 5 years, $48 million, $22 million guaranteed.
Target 3: Torrey Smith
Smith entered the league 4 years ago with a boom. Paired with Joe Flacco, Smith became one of the best deep ball threats in the game. In his 4 years in the league, Smith has averaged a ridiculous 16.7 yards per catch. He is coming off a down year with only 49 catches, 767 yards and no 100 yard games. Smith did become more effective in the redzone however, catching a career best 11 touchdowns.
Pros: Smith can take the top off the defense, which is a skill that stats can’t quantify. The Raiders did not have anything close to a deep threat last year and that allowed defenses to load the box and play risky. Smith is adept at creating hidden yardage with his ability to draw pass interference penalties. Smith drew 11 PI calls last year, almost double any other wide receiver. The durable receiver also hasn’t missed a game in his 4-year career.
Cons: There is a high risk for Torrey Smith to be a bust. He has the tendency to disappear in stretches of games. It is also not known if he will be able to recreate the chemistry he had with Joe Flacco on another team, as Flacco is the one of the best deep ball QBs in the league.
Contract: 4 years, $32 million, $14 million guaranteed.