By now, I’m sure you’re all well aware of the Las Vegas Raiders free agency situation and their need for a deep threat at wide receiver.
The Raiders are projected by both Spotrac and Over The Cap to have just under $20 million in cap space this offseason and desperately need to add some speed to their offense. However, with rumors about an impending contract extension for key players like Derek Carr and Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas will need to be economical to address their needs this month.
We’ve already looked at the offensive line, defensive tackle and cornerback markets, but what wideouts are available for teams who are balling on a budget during free agency?
PFF Projected Contract: 1 year, $7 million
Pros: Since he entered the league in 2016, Fuller has been one of the best deep threats out wide. He has 4.3-speed and from 2017 to 2020, his yards per catch ranged between 14.1 and 16.6 yards. In his six NFL seasons, he has an impressive 12 touchdowns on targets 20 or more yards past the line of scrimmage, so the former Golden Domer would certainly fill the Raiders' need. Plus, he can put his speed to good use after the catch as he ranked tied for 18th in YAC per reception two seasons ago.
Cons: Fuller has battled injury issues throughout the majority of his career, including last season when he was limited to just two games with a broken thumb. Granted, part of the reason he missed so many Sundays last year wasn’t injury-related as he was suspended for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy at the end of 2020, which leaked into 2021. And that brings up another issue.
He set career highs two years ago in catches (53), yards (879) and touchdowns (eight), however, all that production came while using banned substances. So, between the injuries and PEDs, it’s a bit of a gamble if Fuller can get back to his previous form.
PFF Projected Contract: 1 year, $5 million
Pros: Much like Fuller, Sanders has been a great speed receiver since the moment he stepped onto an NFL field. While his receptions and yardage numbers were down last season, he played his role on the Bills well by setting a career-high with 15.1 yards per catch. In fact, that was his highest number since 2015 when he won a Super Bowl with the Broncos. In other words, the old man can still fly.
Cons: He’ll turn 35-years-old in less than two weeks so it’s hard to justify giving him much more than a one-year contract. Sanders doesn’t offer a lot of future value, if any, and the Raiders could easily be back in the same position as they are now next offseason if they bring him on board.
Signing the veteran wideout and drafting his eventual replacement is an option too, but that somewhat defeats the purpose of attacking the need economically since the organization would be using more capital, albeit not terribly significant finically. Plus, having both players on the roster could impede the rookie’s development as he’ll get fewer reps with Sanders in the building.
PFF Projected Contract: 2 year, $6 million per year
Pros: In five seasons, Cole has logged 29 catches for 999 yards on targets 20 or more yards past the line of scrimmage, which accounts for about 15.3 percent of his career catches and about 36 percent of his career yards. He’s also has a career average of 14.6 yards per catch while playing in some rough quarterback situations with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2017 to 2020 and the New York Jets last season. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s shown some versatility throughout his career, having lined up in the slot on 39.7 percent of his career snaps, and that’s after a career-low 16.3 percent in 2021.
Cons: While yes, the quarterback situation was a mess in New York last year, he’s coming off of the second-least productive season of his career. Cole only managed to haul in 28 passes for 449 yards and one touchdown in 2021, as the first two figures were his second-lowest and the latter was tied for his lowest. Also, he’s become a bit of a journeyman as his next team will be his third in as many years, serving as some insight into his perceived value around the league.
PFF Projected Contract: 1 year, $6.5 million
Pros: Truth be told, I could pretty much copy and paste everything that was said about Sanders and apply it to Hilton. Hilton has a long track record of being one of the best deep threats in the NFL with his career average of 15.4 yards per catch and over 10,000 career receiving yards. He even has a smidge of chemistry with Derek Carr as they’ve participated in a few Pro Bowls together.
Cons: Hilton turns 33-years-old so, in the same vein as Sanders, he’d be a temporary fix to the Raiders’ problem. The 10-year veteran has also struggled to stay healthy in recent years, having missed 17 games since 2017, the last time he played in a full regular-season schedule. The longtime Colt has also been vocal about wanting to stay in Indianapolis so a move to the desert may not even be a possibility.
PFF Projected Contract: 1 year, $5.5 million
Pros: While the 2014 fourth overall pick has never lived up to the “No. 1 wide receiver” expectations that come with that high of a draft slot, his 4.43-speed has shone through as a deep threat. Watkins has a career average of 14.9 yards per catch and has only had one season below the 13.9 ypc mark in his career. Also, he’s averaged about 36.8 yards per grab – 11 catches for 405 yards – on targets 20 or more yards down the field in the last three years, so he has some speed left in the tank.
Cons: Watkins is coming off of his worst season to date. He had career-lows in targets (45), receptions (27), yards (394) and touchdowns (downs), and finished the year with zero catches in the last four games he played in. It’s also a little worrisome that the Ravens have had issues with their receiving corps over the last several years, and still do to some extent, but are willing to let him walk in free agency. The Raiders would be hoping for a “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” type of situation by bringing Watkins aboard.