The Raiders were woefully thin at tight end last season. Mychal Rivera was the only one who made it through the 2015 season, finishing the campaign in a two-man position group with practice-squad promotion Scott Simonson.
Nick Kasa tore an ACL in training camp. David Ausberry missed the last 11 games with a foot injury. Blocking tight end Brian Leonhardt was shut down with concussions in consecutive weeks.
Even when the Raiders tight ends were fully stocked, they weren’t an imposing bunch. That could change this offseason, as the Raiders search for depth and talent at a vital offensive position.
They’ll take a close look at free agent tight ends in an attempt to upgrade this position group. They haven’t had a blocking tight end of quality, something mandatory to get the running game off the ground. They have Rivera in house, but they may make a luxury buy with a top-flight receiving tight end.
Let’s take a closer look at select free agent options that can be signed starting Tuesday.
Mychal Rivera: 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, 2 accrued seasons, Tennessee
Stats: 58 receptions, 534 yards, 4 touchdowns
Brian Leonhardt: 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, 1 accrued season, Bemidji State
Stats: 6 receptions, 35 yards, 1 touchdown
Nick Kasa: 6-foot-6, 265 pounds, 2 accrued seasons, Colorado
Stats: Missed 2014 with ACL tear
Thoughts: Rivera is developing into a reliable receiving tight end with potential for far better production than his first two seasons. He has great hands, solid work ethic and is a decent route runner. He’s not much of a blocker, and the Raiders could pursue someone with those strengths in 2015. Leonhardt was forced into that duty last season. The Raiders don’t know what they have in Kasa, who hasn’t played much in two professional seasons.
BIG TICKET ITEMS
Julius Thomas (Denver): 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, 4 accrued seasons, Portland State
Stats: 43 receptions, 489 yards (11.4 avg), 12 touchdowns
A good fit?: Thomas is a top receiving talent who is especially good in the red zone. The Raiders need reliable pass catchers, and Thomas ranks among the best available. There’s little doubt that Thomas could significantly help an offense in need of dynamic skill players. Thomas is looking for a big-money deal. The Raiders can afford to pay him, but should they write a big check for Thomas when they have Rivera on the cheap and other positions in need of major upgrades?
Jordan Cameron (Cleveland): 6-foot-5, 249 pounds, 4 accrued seasons, Southern California
Stats: 24 receptions, 424 yards (17.7 avg), 2 touchdowns
A good fit?: Cameron has the physical tools to be an excellent receiving tight end. While his numbers were down in 2014, he had 80 catches for 917 yards and seven touchdowns the year before. He struggles as a run blocker, but could be of real benefit in the passing game.
Others: Charles Clay (given transition tag by Miami)
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Virgil Green (Denver): 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, 4 accrued seasons, Nevada-Reno
Stats: 6 receptions, 74 yards (12.3 average), 1 touchdown
A good fit?: Green’s numbers won’t wow you, but he’s the type of player who could really help an offense. The 26-year old is known as a quality blocker, especially in the run game. He doesn’t run routes often, but has athleticism to be a receiving factor when asked. The Raiders need a quality blocking tight end and, considering his age, size and track record, Green would be an excellent fit.
Owen Daniels (Baltimore): 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, 9 accrued seasons, Wisconsin
Stats: 48 receptions, 524 yards (11.0 average), 4 touchdown
A good fit?: Daniels is 32 years old after nine largely productive seasons in the NFL. He obviously isn’t a long-term answer at tight end, but he’s a solid all-around player who can mentor Rivera and other young tight ends while still providing production as a blocker and receiver. He had solid numbers last year and played 946 snaps at 31, and could be of real benefit at a decent price. They might have to overpay a bit, considering he wants to return to Baltimore.
Others: Lance Kendricks (St. Louis)
Thoughts: Fans will clamor for Thomas, a Stockton native, to play close to his hometown. There’s no doubting he’s an excellent player, but the Raiders might focus big chunks of money elsewhere. That remains to be seen. There are lesser options of quality that could complement Rivera if the Raiders choose to focus on depth.