The Oakland Raiders desperately need an upgrade at wideout. Going into free agency, they had a ton of money to spend, so it seemed like they’d be almost a lock for one of the bigger names out there. After all, no one was equipped to overpay as well as the Raiders.
According to ESPN’s Bill Williamson, they did try to go after guys like Torrey Smith, Jeremy Maclin and Randall Cobb. They failed all three times. While they’re sure to get a wideout in the draft, why have they so far failed to add a veteran presence as well? Below are three competing theories.
Theory One: Players just don’t want to go to Oakland.
The Raiders just honestly have not been good lately. They haven’t been serious contenders since 2002, though they’ve had some upward blips along the way, like back-to-back 8-8 years in 2010 and 2011. Still, they have not even finished in the top half of the AFC West, let alone won it, since their 2002 Super Bowl run. That’s a pretty bleak stretch in team history.
It could be that players are just staying away if they have other options. If Oakland and Kansas City offered Maclin the same contract, the Kansas City offer would still look better because it’s a better chance to win—not to mention that Maclin is from Missouri. If the Packers and the Raiders offered Cobb the same contract, why would he turn it down to play with Derek Carr instead of Aaron Rodgers, the league MVP?
Which brings us nicely to theory two…
Theory Two: Players don’t trust Derek Carr.
Carr is a young quarterback, and he wasn’t the big star in the draft that a guy like Andrew Luck was. He was taken in the second round as a backup, and he worked his way up the ranks in camp.
Perhaps elite wideouts are not yet convinced he can be the man in Oakland, and they don’t want to play with a guy who may have two mediocre-to-bad years and then get demoted. They’d rather find other quarterbacks that they trust to ensure they still get stats.
While it makes some sense, it doesn’t fully add up, because Carr was pretty good in his rookie year. He had almost no talent around him and he still managed to pass for 3,270 yards and 21 touchdowns. He wasn’t the reason the Raiders lost so much, and he only stands to get better with more experience and more weapons.
Theory Three: The Raiders are smart and they don’t want to overpay.
The Raiders proved they’ll give out big contracts when they signed Rodney Hudson, but perhaps they simply don’t want to overpay for a wideout. Doing so sounds like a classic Raiders move, but moves like that can really hurt the team.
Maclin got $11M per year in Kansas City. Could the Raiders have lured him in with $12M or $13M per year? Sure, they probably could have, but that’s way too much for him.
He would have been an upgrade, but the Raiders need to rebuild this whole thing if they want to win. That takes capital. One good wideout isn’t going to take them from fourth to first in the AFC West. If anything, it could hamstring them and stick them in mediocrity even longer.
Plus, they’re probably going to draft a wideout with the fourth overall pick. If they want, they could get another one in the third or the fourth; this is a deep draft. Both of those guys would be bargains compared to Maclin or Cobb or Smith, so Oakland would have beeen wise to hold out if the big wideouts weren’t interested in anything but inflated contracts.