Jon Gruden Needs To Go After This Veteran Wide Receiver If He Becomes Available
With NFL free agency beginning in about five weeks, some of the major questions surrounding the Raiders roster will soon be answered.
Who knows what Jon Gruden has in mind from a personnel standpoint, but one position group that will be particularly interesting to follow will be the wide receivers.
Amari Cooper is going to be a star under Gruden, but what about Michael Crabtree and Seth Roberts? Where do either of them stand with the new coaching staff?
Gruden will want veteran leadership at the receiver position and while Crabtree has achieved veteran status, leadership wasn’t something he brought to the Raiders locker room – in fact, he added the opposite. The leadership void in the Raiders locker room was only magnified by Crabtree’s questionable attitude and sloppy work ethic.
Assuming Crabtree doesn’t come back, what alternatives do the Raiders have? Is there a veteran out there that would have Gruden doing cartwheels?
One name stands out, but he’s not yet a free agent (we’ll get to him in a moment).
Here are the Raiders free agent options as of the first week of February…
Jarvis Landry – This idea makes sense in terms of Landry being a possession-type receiver that Gruden will probably prioritize, but he won’t come cheap. There are some other boxes that Landry doesn’t necessarily check, as well. In the end, Landry doesn’t seem to be worth the money.
Sammy Watkins – Reggie McKenzie loved Watkins out of college, but how do the Raiders feel about him now? Watkins is still explosive, but is he reliable enough to be trusted in a full-time role? It doesn’t look like the Rams will fight hard to bring Watkins back and that’s at least a little concerning. If the Raiders are willing to spend a little, maybe replace Seth Roberts with a player like Watkins and add another possession receiver as well?
Marqise Lee – An intriguing option for sure. Lee has the hands and route-running ability to catch Gruden’s eye and he’s only 26. Like Watkins, Lee would be an interesting third option with the potential to be even better.
Donte Moncrief – At 6’2 and 220 pounds, Moncrief has the size to play outside or could continue to be productive in the slot. His production has been limited by injuries to both himself and Andrew Luck. Moncrief is only 24 years old.
Paul Richardson – The Seahawks receiver is rumored to be seeking $7 million per year in free agency – which is a lot for a player who has a total of 1,302 receiving yards in four seasons. He is fast though.
Jordan Matthews – The former Eagles and Browns receiver checks so many boxes as an athlete, but hasn’t been able to put it all together. At 6’3, 215 pounds, it’s easy to see why Matthews was drafted in the second round by the Eagles. He tallied 85 receptions in his second NFL season, but battled through injuries and poor quarterback play in Buffalo. Not sure Matthews seems like the kind of player Gruden will do cartwheels to sign.
Allen Robinson – The Jaguars 24 year-old receiver is a free agent in name only. Jacksonville will surely slap the franchise tag on Robinson, but if they don’t, the Raiders should absolutely throw all the money at him. Look at what Robinson has done catching dead ducks from Blake Bortles and imagine what he could do with Derek Carr.
Danny Amendola – This just feels like the kind of receiver Gruden would love, but Amendola is 32 years old and has never achieved a 700-yard season in the NFL. Nevertheless, Gruden is going to bring in a receiver who can create space underneath coverages and if he can stay healthy, Amendola would do that very well.
Terrelle Pryor – This time last year, Pryor was a bit of a commodity. Now 28 and coming away from a messy season with Jay Gruden in Washington, what are the odds Jon Gruden wants to risk going down a similar road with Pryor?
Not impressed by any of these options? The good news is, more free agents are likely to be on the way.
Among the list of cap casualties in the weeks ahead could be Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Emmanuel Sanders, Rishad Matthews, DeSean Jackson, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall, Jeremy Maclin, Travis Benjamin, Kelvin Benjamin, Cole Beasley, and Tavon Austin.
A name that stands out on the list is Emmanuel Sanders, who has watched his numbers drop in three consecutive seasons and counts just under $11 million against the Broncos’ salary cap in 2018 – a cap number that jumps to almost $14 million in 2019.
Sanders is the same age (30) as Michael Crabtree and can run every pattern in Gruden’s playbook. Deep, intermediate, and short – Sanders can do it all.
When healthy, Sanders is almost impossible to defend when throws are on time – a concept that Denver quarterbacks were rarely able to achieve.
Sanders would bring the veteran leadership Gruden needs immediately. He’s a fan favorite in Denver and would quickly become the same in Oakland.
If Gruden can get Cooper back on track and add a player like Sanders, the Raiders would have two of the best route-runners in the league on one offense – not all that different than the lethal combination of Jerry Rice and Tim Brown that once wreaked havoc on the AFC West.
Who wouldn’t be interested in a tandem like that again?