Though the Raiders needed to improve their receiving corps for 2014, they didn’t use a top draft pick on a pass catcher.
Still, they believe the group will be better this season with the addition of veteran free agents James Jones from the Packers and Greg Little from the Browns and the continued development of younger players such as Rod Streater, Denarius Moore and Juron Criner.
Also lurking on the roster – buried on the depth chart – is second-year pro Brice Butler.
It’s possible that the seventh-round pick from San Diego State in 2013 could emerge in training camp and exhibitions this summer to make significant contributions. At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Butler is a tall target with good speed (4.36 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day) who started two games as a rookie and appeared in 10 total. But Butler caught just nine passes for 103 yards and no TDs after playing very well in training camp last season.
Plus, Butler played for current Raiders wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore at USC, when Butler started his college career with the Trojans.
In three seasons at USC – before transferring south to San Diego State – Butler caught 41 total passes for 554 yards and three touchdowns. Then, in his final season at SDSU, he caught 24 balls for 347 yards and four TDs. In his first season at USC in 2009, he was selected to the Pac-10 All-Freshman team.
Butler has a backer in Gilmore, who believes in his talents. During the draft in 2013, Gilmore called Butler on the draft’s final day to say, “I’m pushing for you.”
“We’ve got a couple of picks left,” Gilmore told Butler, according to U-T San Diego. Then, Gilmore called again later to tell him he’d been taken in the seventh round.
The son of former longtime NFL defensive back Bobby Butler, Brice Butler showed flashes of what he could bring to the Raiders this season in exhibition games last summer. In one late-game appearance in a victory over Dallas, Butler caught 40- and 30-yard passes from Matt McGloin, with the second catch resulting in a touchdown.
“I am 23 years old and I have been waiting on that moment my whole life,” Butler told reporters after that game.
Head coach Dennis Allen certainly was impressed by what he saw of Butler as a rookie.
“He’s a big target, he’s fast, he’s able to get in and out of breaks,” Allen told reporters last August. “He’s really had an impressive camp.”
Now, with minicamp behind him and the start of training camp weeks away, Butler could be poised to make a bid for more playing time in 2014.