If this is indeed a new era for the Oakland Raiders, then perhaps the team’s decision not to pursue free-agent wide receiver Terrell Owens is the latest sign of regime change.
The question is, will the Raiders continue to think outside the old Raider box and resist the temptation to sign Plaxico Burress?
Owens has taken his once-considerable skills, age (38) and large NFL baggage train to Seattle, where he has signed with the Seahawks. Seattle coach Pete Carroll is banking on Owens having enough left to give new quarterback Matt Flynn a big, experienced target.
The Raiders, too, could possibly have used Owens’ skills in a group of wideouts that is long on potential but short on experience. Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer, in fact, recommended Owens to Carroll – Palmer’s coach at USC – because of their one season together at Cincinnati in 2010, where Owens caught 72 passes for 983 yards.
“I just thought T.O. would be a great fit (in Oakland),” Palmer told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group.
The Raiders, however, passed on Owens and appear ready to go with the receiving group now in camp.
That group consists of second-year standout Denarius Moore, third-year men Jacoby Ford, Darrius Heyward-Bey and rookies/free agents Rod Streater, Juron Criner, Travionte Session, Duke Calhoun, DeAundre Muhammad, Eddie McGree, Brandon Carswell and Thomas Mayo.
Moore, Ford and Heyward-Bey have shown what they can do when healthy, but the rest of the group is untested or carries question marks.
So why not bring in a veteran? Burress, for instance, remains available as a free agent. Soon to be 35, Burress last season for the Jets caught 45 passes for 612 yards after being away from the NFL for three seasons while serving time for conviction on two weapons charges.
While in the past Al Davis might have taken a gamble on Burress, it seems Reggie McKenzie, the team’s first-year general manager, is going to follow his formula of building from within, giving opportunities to fresh talent and relying on the new coaching staff of Dennis Allen and Co. to coach up the new players to reach their potential.
While some Raiders observers believe the Raiders have nothing to lose by going after Burress, others believe McKenzie’s tack is a smart one.
While an article in the National Football Post urged the Raiders to bring in Burress to serve as a mentor for younger receivers and add experience and a threat in the red zone, ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson, who covers the AFC West, says the Raiders should stand pat.
“Adding Burress to the mix would take away repetitions and opportunities from the likes of Juron Criner and Rod Streater,” Williamson wrote on his AFC West blog. “Oakland is a growing program. If the Raiders are going to be a factor for the long term, it will be because of players like Criner and Streater, not players like Burress, who turns 35 (on Aug. 12).”
Plus, says Williamson, with Moore, Heyward-Bey and Ford, the Raiders have three receivers who could be very good in Oakland’s new offensive scheme led by Palmer, who’s had a full offseason to absorb it.
Unless the Raiders suffer some injuries to their receivers or the young players flop, writes Williamson, “I don’t believe the Raiders will sign Burress.”
“I don’t think the Raiders need Burress,” he added. “Their young receiving group is exciting and it has a chance to shine. But it has to be given that chance.”