It’s projected to be an offseason of change for the Oakland Raiders, with General Manager Reggie McKenzie reportedly ready to release high-priced veterans and allow some free agents to walk.
Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, defensive tackles Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour, linebacker Rolando McClain, punter Shane Lechler and perhaps even running back Darren McFadden could be on the way out after the team’s disappointing 4-12 season.
Yet one player entering free agency, tight end Brandon Myers, may be on McKenzie’s “keeper” list.
In his fourth season, the 6-foot-3, 256-pounder out of Iowa had a breakout season after earning the starting job in training camp, catching 79 passes for 806 yards and four touchdowns. He became quarterback Carson Palmer’s favorite go-to receiver, with 41 of Myers’ receptions good for a first down. His previous career-high for catches in a season was 16 in 2011, when he backed up Kevin Boss.
His 79 receptions were the most by a Raider since Jerry Rice had 92 in 2002.
Wrote ESPN.com’s AFC West blogger Bill Williamson of the Raiders-Myers relationship going into this offseason: “The Raiders don’t have any great options (at tight end) and they need to keep Myers. He opened eyes around the league and if he hits free agency, someone could pay him big.”
Myers has made the most of his opportunity this season after playing behind Boss and Zach Miller in previous years.
“I think I’ve proved what I’ve known all along, but just haven’t been given the opportunity to showcase what I can do,” Myers told the Bay Area News Group’s Jerry McDonald in December. “I guess you could say I showed what I can do. Even though we weren’t winning a lot of games, when I was given the opportunity, I made the most of it.”
Myers, who reportedly made a base salary of $565,000 this past season, will be an unrestricted free agent. Based on his production in 2012, McKenzie will need to bump that up to bring him back for 2013. But the sure-handed Myers, only 28, could be productive for many more seasons and has developed a rapport with quarterback Carson Palmer. Retaining Myers will cement one element of an offensive unit that could have many moving parts over the coming months.
Myers certainly has won the confidence of Palmer, who’d love to have Myers back for next season.
“He is just a good football player,” Palmer said this season. “He makes plays. He gets open. He really understands what we’re trying to do as an offense. He understands how to get open. … He understands coverages and seems to always kind of find an open spot.
“Just naturally, you don’t teach that. You don’t coach that. That’s just, you either got it or you don’t, and he’s got a lot of it.”
Now it will be up to McKenzie whether to make Myers part of the Raiders’ rebuilding formula for 2013 and beyond.