Starters: Jared Cook, Lee Smith
Depth: Clive Walford, Gabe Holmes, Ryan O’Malley, Cooper Helfet, Pharaoh Brown
Additions: Jared Cook
Departures: Mychal Rivera
Arguably the top free agent addition to the Raiders this offseason was Jared Cook. He is the only player signed who instantly steps into a starting role as an upgrade at the position. Last season, he finished on a tear for the Packers. Over the final 7 games, he caught 24 passes for 324 yards. Then caught 18 passes for 229 yards and 2 touchdowns in three postseason games including six catches for 103 yards and a touchdown in a 34-31 win over the Cowboys to help send the Packers to the NFC Championship game.
Falling to complementary role is former third round pick, Clive Walford. Offseason injuries his first two seasons have upended his hopes of making the early impact the team hoped. He and Cook in two tight end sets could prove to be a great combo for Derek Carr. They’re hoping it’s an upgrade over the departed Mychal Rivera.
Back as the team’s ‘goon’ at blocking tight end is Lee Smith. He was lost for the season early in 2016, forcing the team to use a tackle eligible more than they would have liked. His return will help greatly.
Holmes has impressed the Raiders the past two training camps, but has yet to see action. As a rookie he was still a raw product who the team stashed on the practice squad. An injury sent him to injured reserve last season. The former basketball player will have another shot to be the final TE on the roster.
Also battling for that final tight end spot are 2016 practice squad players, Ryan O’Malley and Cooper Helfet along with undrafted rookie Pharaoh Brown.
It’s the addition of Cook that stabilizes the tight end unit for the first time in a long time. It even has the potential to be strong. If Cook continues his play from late last season and Clive Walford stays healthy and takes a step forward, that could be a fantastic 1-2 punch at tight end. Then there’s the unknown in Gabe Holmes toying with being an NFL talent. A lot of potential there.
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