Wide receiver was considered one of many positions of need for the Oakland Raiders going into the 2014 NFL Draft. But when GM Reggie McKenzie tagged quarterback Derek Carr with their second-round pick instead of a playmaker like Marqise Lee or Paul Richardson, it pretty much meant no offense skill help wasn’t coming from the NFL Draft. The Raiders would go into training camp with Denarius Moore, Rod Streater and new free agent signing James Jones as their main three targets in the passing game.
The Raiders were one of the worst teams in the league last year in scoring red zone touchdowns, averaging only 1.6 a game. A big, tall physical pass-catching receiver or tight end is a critical tool when a team nears the goal line. Mychal Rivera, the Raiders’ second-year tight end, had a surprisingly impressive rookie campaign, catching 38 passes for 407 yards and four touchdowns. But he only caught ONE pass when the ball was inside the opponent’s ten-yard line — one. The Raiders like David Ausberry, a big athletic talent who played wideout at USC, but he’s been unable to stay on the field. McKenzie brought in James Jones, and even though he caught 14 touchdown passes in 2012, he only caught four in 2013 and is on the wrong side of 30. He doesn’t have the size (a generous 6-foot-1) or vertical leap to line up wide against a smaller corner and catch a fade route. A reliable red zone target would be a great weapon for Matt Schaub.
Insert: Jermichael Finley.
The former Green Bay Packers tight end missed 10 games last year with a scary neck injury. But according to Finley’s agent, his client has received full medical clearance from Dr. Joseph Maroon, the Steelers’ neurosurgeon who performed the procedure on Finley. Finley is expected to receive interest from a number of teams, and the Raiders should throw their hat in the ring.
Finley probably won’t get more than a one-year, “show me” deal. He’s 27 and probably has one more multi-year contract left in his pocket if he can come back from this injury and perform. He’s going to want to come in and show he’s the same player who averaged 60 receptions, 700 yards and five touchdowns between 2011-12. It would give the Raiders a veteran presence at the position which is something they are lacking. Rivera and backup Nick Kasa are only 23, and Ausberry has nine catches in his career. Bringing in Finley would also reunite him with Jones, which should add to the chemistry in the locker room. And at 6-foot-5 and 250-pounds, he’d be the biggest target on the roster. For an organization that’s trying to build for the future AS WELL as stay competitive in a difficult AFC West, signing Finley to a one-year deal makes all the sense in the world.