The Raiders didn't make a lot of moves at the wide receiver position this off-season and yet the group could look quite different than it did during the 2012 season. Is that a good thing?
2012: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, Derek Hagan, Juron Criner
2013: Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, Jacoby Ford, Josh Cribbs, Juron Criner, Brice Butler (And a host of other UDFA rookies and first year players trying to distinguish themselves)
The biggest move this team made among the receivers this off-season was the cut Darrius Heyward-Bey. That may seem like a loss but I don't see it that way. DHB has had a hold on the number one receiver spot since the day the Raiders reached for him with the seventh overall pick in the draft in 2009. He never had any right to that spot. He didn't earn it in the beginning and didn't do enough to keep it.
Those who would defend DHB would say the only reason he was a disappointment was because of his draft position. I would say he was a disappointment because he wasn't good at catching the ball. He was always extremely limited in what he could do and catching long passes and jump balls were not in his repertoire (He caught a one-handed sideline route once but one time does not constitute a "repertoire"). Having a number one receiver with such deficiencies handicapped the entire offense.
The only factor DHB's draft position played was in the amount he was being paid. When the new regime didn't restructure his deal prior to last season, the writing was on the wall. A restructure would have meant an extension and they needed DHB to prove he was a legitimate starting receiver. Not surprisingly, he didn't. His release was addition by subtraction because that money was far better spent elsewhere.
DHB always had speed to burn and once he got the ball in his hands, he was hard to catch and equally hard to bring down. So, it makes sense to replace him with a guy like Josh Cribbs. I would contest Cribbs has as good or better receiving skills than DHB and is more electric once he has the ball as well (although he has a real problem with fumbling). And even if Cribbs were the same player, he won't be starting for this team and costs pocket change compared to DHB.
Speaking of electric, the team has Jacoby Ford back. He was on the team before but missed all of last season with a foot injury. His reintroduction to the offense improves this group a great deal. The team was unable to replace him as a weapon in the offense last season and it showed.
The team didn't bring back Derek Hagan which I believe they should have. However, rookie Brice Butler has looked pretty good in OTA's and minicamp and he will battle with Juron Criner for playing time and perhaps a roster spot. Having to make a tough decision on the final wide receiver spot is a far better problem to have than choosing a player out of desperation.
Denarius Moore and Rod Streater return to the team. This time Streater is a starter. Despite starting just 2 games, he came on strong late last season and was within 2 catches and 22 yards of surpassing 14-game starter DHB as the team's third leading receiver. It should be interesting to see what kind of numbers Streater can put up this season as the starter from the first game.
Even so, there is no solid number one receiver but then again there wasn't one last year either. This year we at least know all of the top three receivers have shown the ability to make all the catches necessary.