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Raiders free agency: The search for a No. 1 receiver

Las Vegas should double up for top wide receiver with open market and draft options aplenty

NFL: Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons
Allen Robinson is an unrestricted free agent and would fill the role of No. 1 wide receiver for the Las Vegas Raiders nicely.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The pipe dream of Davante Adams reuniting with college teammate Derek Carr in the desert is all but over. The Green Bay Packers hammered in an emphatic nail to that fantasy reunion by applying the franchise tag to their top wide receiver before the Tuesday deadline.

And thus, unless the Las Vegas Raiders swing a trade for Adams, he won’t be catching passes from his Fresno State Bulldog quarterback, Carr, in Silver & Black. In Green Bay Adams will remain catching the rock from Aaron Rodgers — who re-upped with the Pack Tuesday.

Nonetheless, the Raiders still have a glaring need for a No. 1 wide receiver — although I will argue slot man Hunter Renfrow or tight end Darren Waller are the de facto top receiving options (more on this on a future piece). The Raiders in-house options aren’t necessarily awe-inspiring.

Despite being given the opportunity to solidify himself as a top wideout in the Raiders rotation, Bryan Edwards couldn’t firmly take the reigns and ascend this past season. He is only 23, however, and is coming off a 34-catch, 571-yard (16.8 yards per catch average), and three-touchdown sophomore season. His performance had him as the third-best pass catcher on the Raiders in 2021. Edwards was followed by Zay Jones ( an unrestricted free agent himself) who finished with 47 catches for 546 yards and a touchdown.

NFL: DEC 27 Bears at Jaguars
DJ Chark, right, is a tall and rangy unrestricted free agent that could use a change of scenery.
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Which leads us back to the open market. Adams was one of nine players NFL teams slapped with the franchise tag before the deadline and the other wide out to get the distinction was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Chris Godwin.

But that doesn’t mean the free agency is devoid of talent.

When the legal tampering period begins next week, there are a number of quality unrestricted free agent options for Vegas — if they were to look that way. Receivers who can fill the No. 1 spot that are available are: Allen Robinson (Chicago), Will Fuller (Miami) Juju Smith-Schuster (Pittsburgh). Then there’s a slew of other potential pickups like D.J. Chark (Jacksonville), T.Y. Hilton (Indianapolis), and Zay Jones (Vegas) that could attract the Raiders’ eyes.

The market is likely already set for wide receiver thanks to Mike Williams signing a new deal with the Los Angeles Chargers on Tuesday. Slated to hit unrestricted free agency, the Bolts’ inked their 6-foot-4, 218-pound receiver to a three-year, $60 million deal before he could test the free agent waters. The new coin is definitely music to the ears of other wide receivers in the league looking for contract extensions themselves.

It’s unclear now what Las Vegas has up its sleeve now that general manager Dave Zielger is the chief personnel man and building a roster for good friend and Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels. Whether or not the team gets into bidding wars or doles out a pretty penny to the likes of Robinson in hopes of filling the void at No. 1 wide receiver during free agency remains to be seen.

But we’ll get the answer soon enough.

Vegas, however, would be wise to hedge their bet and double down at the wide receiver position by signing a free agent next week and drafting another one in April’s NFL Draft. The 2022 class of wide receivers coming out of the collegiate landscape is a freakish one that is equal parts impressive at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last week and in their respective game film. You’re bound to hear more about Drake London (USC), Garrett Wilson (Ohio State), Jameson Williams (Alabama), Chris Olave (Ohio State), Treylon Burks (Arkansas) and the like a lot as we careen towards the draft.

Because one of those aforementioned names will likely be there when the Raiders are on the clock with the 22nd pick in the first round (if they don’t trade up or down). And each have the collegiate pedigree and potential to ascend to the Raiders top wide receiver if drafted and developed properly.

NFL Combine
Ohio State’s Chris Olave is a consensus first-round wide receiver prospect.
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Is Zielger and/or McDaniels seeking a big body who can high-point and out-physical defenders for the ball? Or are they looking for a burner who leave defenders grasping for air with both speed and route-running precision? Because London fits the bill for the first distinction while Wilson, Williams, Olave and Burks fit the latter description.

And that’s just the consensus first-round prospects. There are intriguing options beyond those names I mentioned that will be available as the draft progresses. As with any position on a football team, the No. 1 option isn’t always a first-round talent.

With Ziegler and his personnel staff — that includes assistant general manager Champ Kelly — looking at all the fine little details, the search for a No. 1 wide receiver should result in a quality player or players — be it a free agent or a draft pick.