The Raiders go into 2017 with one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL in Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper.
Each had 1,000-yard seasons in 2016, with Crabtree catching 89 passes for 1,003 yards and eight touchdowns and Cooper catching 83 balls for 1,153 yards and five scores.
But as Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie and his staff begin to consider free-agent acquisitions that could make the most impact in the coming year, finding a third wideout to make a bigger impact out of the slot could be on the list.
In 2016, Seth Roberts continued to improve in that role, and had five TD catches among his 38 receptions for 397 yards. But a more dangerous slot receiver certainly would make the offense far more difficult to stop and give quarterback Derek Carr more downfield options.
One candidate who’s been linked to the Raiders as a potential free agent is veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The former Bay Area standout at Cal just completed his third season in Washington, posting the fifth 1,000-yard season of his NFL career. Jackson, 30, will be a sought-after talent if he hits free agency, as expected. He’s still extremely quick out of the slot as he showed this past season, averaging 17.9 yards on 56 catches for 1,005 yards and four TDs. That per-catch average always has been among the league’s best, as his 17.7 career number attests.
Mike Florio of NBC’s Pro Football Talk noted recently that Jackson is eager to test free agency for the first time in his career.
“I’m definitely intrigued about seeing what’s going to happen and test the market and see what’s going on,” Jackson said. “Who knows what will happen?”
The Eagles, Cowboys and Patriots are considered strong suitors, but Oakland also has been mentioned as a landing spot. Jackson added to the slot certainly would create extreme pressure on opposing secondaries charged with covering Jackson, Cooper and Crabtree.
This week, Jackson told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that playing with a “great quarterback” will be a priority, wherever he lands. He also said he wants to be on a winning team. Those two goals would fit with the Raiders, who have Derek Carr – who emerged as a league MVP candidate in 2016 – and a team coming off a 12-4 record and trip to the playoffs.
Jackson told Schefter that he’s as fast as ever and excited for a fresh start.
The question will be, does McKenzie believe upgrading the third wide receiver position is a priority? Or will he decide to focus his free-agent dollars on defense?