As much as we all love a true No. 1 receiver, the Las Vegas Raiders probably can not afford one. That means you can get your hopes up for Kenny Golladay, Will Fuller, or JuJu Smith-Schuster but it probably won’t happen.
Laughs to all the folks who really thought Allen Robinson and Chris Godwin were gonna sign with Vegas. That is out the question now that they received the franchise tags from their teams. Sure, the Raiders need an alpha in the receiver room. They need someone who can make a big red zone grab and free up everyone else with double-teams. However, you can’t always get what you wish for.
The team invested a first-round pick in Henry Ruggs III last year. Results were mixed but the speedster could use another impact player across from him. It is unlikely the Raiders sign any free agent worth that much given the cap situation. They have many of their own free agents to consider. Nelson Agholor broke out in Gruden’s offense last year. Will he break the bank in Vegas or elsewhere?
Zay Jones showed some chemistry last year. He hasn’t been a consistent contributor the past two years but would the Raiders bring him back as a cheap backup? Either way, they should sign a quality vet even if they bring back Agholor or Jones. The Raiders need their cap space to bring back free agents at receiver or elsewhere.
Dollars and Sense
The salary cap went down about eight percent. The Raiders were expected to be $6 million over the salary cap until they started making moves. Vegas holds about $17 million in cap space with Trent Brown still technically on the books. They can create even more space by trading Marcus Mariota.
Moreover, the Raiders can’t afford to not make an addition on defense. The Raiders gave up the third most passing yards and the ninth most rushing yards. They registered the third least amount of turnovers and the fourth least number of sacks. Upgrading the defense should take priority over splurging at receiver. Thus, the Raiders would have to make several tough decisions if they want to sign a receiver for an eight-figure salary. Top receivers like Fuller or Golladay could command that even in a down year. Here is who the Raiders should consider signing at receiver.
You could make an argument for Davis being in the top-tier receiver class after he just missed the 1,000 receiving yard mark last year. Still, Davis battled inconsistencies and never developed into a No. 1 receiver like Tennessee hoped when they selected him fifth overall in 2017. Vegas would give Davis a fresh start. He knows Mariota well. Davis is only 27 and off his best season. His size would thrive alongside the speed and swiftness the Raiders feature with Ruggs and Renfrow. Spotrac estimates Davis’ value at about $9-10 million per season based on contracts for Adam Humphries and other comparable receivers. That is great savings compared to the $16 million Smith-Schuster, Fuller, or Golladay will command.
The Raiders can get even more value by exploring a more experienced player like Jones. He registered nine touchdowns in three of the last four seasons. Jones also broke the 900-yard mark last year. He is 31 and comes with his own consistency issues. However, the Raiders would get a big target who can help them move the sticks and score touchdowns. People are high on Bryan Edwards but why not give him a mentor for a year or two? Jones should command a little bit less than Davis due to his age. It should also be a shorter-term commitment.
Again, the Raiders need size at receiver. Green brings that and much more. Sure, he played in 16 games for the first time since 2017. Yes, he turns 33 before next season and Green is off his worst statistical season. However, Green got better as the year went on. He showed he can contribute with good receivers and quarterback play around him. Green isn’t the same elite receiver as years past but he got paid like one last year. That means he should be ready to take a discount for the right fit. The Raiders could be that fit if he wants to play in a Gruden-style West Coast offense with Carr and the speedy receivers around him.
Think about how late the Raiders signed Nelson Agholor last year. Think about the things that kept Agholor’s value down like injuries, inconsistent hands, and a bad offensive fit. Ponder why he thrived with the Silver and Black including his speed, versatility, and playmaking. Sammy Watkins could bring all that and maybe an inch more if he is healthy. He also brings familiarity with the AFC West and the West Coast offense.
Watkins is turning 28 and could be in line for one last shot at a payday after a great season. He made a ton of money in Kansas City so he should take a bargain for a chance to prove himself in a good role with the Raiders. The Raiders won’t need him as a decoy but he will complement the other receivers. Watkins won a Super Bowl and played in two more. Maybe he is willing to take less than what he has the past few years.
Samuel will probably hit the bank. He gets better every season. Last season he had the most catches and highest catch rate for his career. Samuel will barely turn 25 before next season. He offers an explosive playmaker to whatever team signs him. The only reason he is not higher is that some team will throw big bucks at Samuel if they miss out on Galloday or any No. 1 receiver. Plus, the Raiders need size more than explosiveness at receiver. They can find that at a better bargain. Although, Samuel’s speed would help replace Tyrell Williams.
Every free agency article about Hilton talks about how he isn’t the same player. That might be true but he still registered five touchdowns and 762 yards at age 31. He can show Ruggs and Renfrow how to be elite despite their frame. Hilton also played in nine playoff games which are valuable experiences for the Raiders. If the price is right, Hilton makes sense on a short-term deal. He might get other offers from better teams or Indy has the cap space to keep him. Hilton is a worthy signing but not if a bidding war pops off.
Once again, we are in the boom or bust part of free agency. Westbrook brings high-end speed and starting experience. He turns 28 soon but should be eager to prove himself after only catching one pass last year. Westbrook could thrive in a role similar to Agholor’s last season, assuming he fully recovered from the knee injury.
Pascal’s name keeps popping up on under-the-radar free agency lists since he scored five touchdowns and over 600 receiving yards the past two seasons. He hits restricted free agency at age 27. The Raiders could use his speed and red zone play. However, it will cost them a pick. Not to mention, Indy has the cap space to match a deal for Pascal.
Lazard is another restricted free agent so his team can match what the Raiders offer or the Raiders give up a pick along with whatever he signs for. Still, Lazard might be worth the compensation due to his 6-foot-five frame. He just turned 25 and put up over 400 yards and three touchdowns each of the past two seasons. Let’s see what he can do alongside the speed the Raiders have at receiver.
The Raiders kicked the tires on an Eagles receiver and it worked last year. Why not do it again? This time with the player who helped phase out Agholor the past few years in Philly. Ward put up 419 receiving yards and six touchdowns at age 25. He started every game last year so the Eagles may keep him. He would also cost the Raiders a pick since he is a free agent. Ward would give the Raiders some speed and explosiveness.
If the Raiders miss on Watkins and want other former Chiefs receivers there is DeMarcus Robinson and Albert Wilson. Robinson is a little younger but Wilson is probably a bit cheaper. Production and impact would be similar.
They could also look at Emmanuel Sanders or Breshad Perriman. Perriman’s last year in New York proved it is much harder for him to have an impact when he is not surrounded by great receiving talent. Sanders performed better last year after finding a role with the Saints. Both have been free agents so the Raiders could have signed them if there was previous interest. Doubtful this is the year it happens. Ultimately, the Raiders will need to add to their receiver room without paying out No. 1 receiver money. This class is deep enough for them to do that whether they keep Nelson Agholor or let him walk in free agency. The Vegas defense needs too much help to splurge on any tik toker or No. 1 receiver off injury and suspension.