This offseason, the Raiders’ biggest priority will be to upgrade their defense.
But the offense, one of the NFL’s best in 2016, could also use some tweaking. Tight end, certainly, will get some attention.
Mychal Rivera is soon to be a free agent, and Oakland reportedly will let him go to another team. That will leave Oakland with veteran Lee Smith, a standout blocker, and young Clive Walford, who has shown flashes of brilliance but has yet to become a consistent big-play receiver.
So, it’s presumed general manager Reggie McKenzie will bring in a free agent or draft a tight end to supplement the Walford-Smith duo.
That’s where Martellus Bennett could come into play.
Bennett, 29, is a nine-year veteran with stops with the Cowboys, Giants, Bears and Patriots. With New England last season, he helped his team win a Super Bowl. In 16 games he caught 55 passes for 701 yards and seven touchdowns, even while battling an ankle injury that limited his effectiveness as a blocker and in getting yards after the catch.
Bennett is just two seasons removed from a 90-catch season with the Bears and has a good reputation as a blocker and receiver. His addition to the Raiders would give quarterback Derek Carr another good mid-range option and allow Oakland to use more two- and three-tight end sets.
The Patriots could bring Bennett back, but he may be expensive. And, if it appears Rob Gronkowski will come back completely healthy, they may decide to let Bennett leave as an unrestricted free agent. Oakland and Houston are considered top candidates for Bennett if he is on the open market.
Bennett turned down a Patriots offer of a contract extension during the season, so he may be interested in playing somewhere else.
As Sayre Bedinger of FanSided wrote recently, Bennett would be a great fit in silver and black.
“While Clive Walford is not a bad player, the Raiders could use the veteran leadership of a guy like Bennett, who would make their passing game even more dynamic than it already is,” wrote Bedinger, adding that his signing would make the passing game “downright scary.”