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4 wide receivers the Raiders could target in free agency

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series previewing the Raiders’ prospects in the NFL free-agent signing period, which begins March 18.

Forty-six wide receivers had 50 or more catches this past season while 49 amassed 655 or more yards in receptions.

No Raiders wide receiver was among them.

While tight end Darren Waller emerged as one of the NFL’s most feared receiving weapons with 90 catches and 1,145 yards, the lack of a dynamic wide receiver was a glaring issue all season.

As they head into the draft and free agency, adding a No. 1 wide receiver for quarterback Derek Carr — and to complement Waller, running back Josh Jacobs, slot receiver Hunter Renfrow and Tyrell Williams — is among their primary objectives.

“You need playmakers in today’s NFL,” said Raiders general manager Mike Mayock. “And I don’t even think you need to put labels on them anymore. That’s some of the things Jon (Gruden) and I talk about. Josh Jacobs can be a playmaker. Darren Waller can be a playmaker. Renfrow can be a playmaker.

”But we don’t have enough outside speed. People started to load up on Josh and Darren. Our offensive line is a big, strong, tough group that we’re happy with. But let’s be honest, if we’re going to take it to another level, that position has to get better.”

The Raiders have the 12th and 19th picks in the first round and five of the first 90 picks overall. A wide receiver group deemed one the deepest in years is almost certain to yield help.

“Now, you have to be careful, especially the higher you go,” Mayock said. “Do yourself a favor and go look at (the history of the draft) and look at first-round wide receivers over the last 10 years. It’s sobering. And I think there’s some reasons why college wide receivers can struggle coming into the NFL.”

“Everybody thinks if you draft a wide receiver in the first round it’s immediate production. It doesn’t necessarily mean that. Take a look at the numbers.”

That makes free agency a likely option. With the Raiders among the most flexible teams in the NFL with about $51 million in cap space, they will keep an eye on that position when the market opens March 18.

Here are some receivers that could be in play:

1. Robby Anderson, Jets. Age: 27

Anderson brings some much needed explosiveness, averaging 15 yards per catch on 52 receptions last year. That was sixth best in the NFL among receivers with 50 or more catches. He’s averaged 14.8 yards per catch over his first four seasons, and in each of the last three years he’s eclipsed 50 catches and 750 yards.

The knock on Anderson is that his career numbers don’t reflect an elite receiver. But the Jets have used seven different quarterbacks during his time in New York, so how much is it an Anderson issue or a quarterback problem? A similar consistency complaint was lodged against Robert Woods during his four seasons in Buffalo, where he averaged 50 catches for 612 yards while playing with six quarterbacks. Since joining the Los Angeles Rams and playing exclusively with Jared Goff, Woods is averaging 77 catches for 1,000 yards in three seasons.

2. A.J. Green, Bengals. Age: 31

Green is a tricky player to evaluate as he’s played nine games during the last two seasons and missed all of 2019 with an ankle injury. On the other hand, when healthy he is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL while eclipsing 1,000 or more receiving yards in six of his eight seasons and 65 or more receptions seven times. For his career, Green has 8,907 receiving yards and 82 touchdowns.

His injuries likely mean Green will not be a stressful contract addition, with Spotrac predicting a two-year, $18.2 million deal for the seven-time Pro Bowler. The Raiders could easily fit him under the cap while leaving plenty of money to address other areas.

3. Amari Cooper, Cowboys. Age: 25

This is a major long shot as neither Cooper nor the Raiders would appear enthusiastic about a reconciliation after their breakup in 2018. Couple that with the Cowboys wanting to keep Cooper in Dallas, and it seems like a non-starter.

If Cooper should hit the open market, though, the Raiders’ pressing need at wide receiver and their $51 million in cap space create a motivation/means factor that can’t be ignored. In five seasons, Cooper has topped more than 72 catches and 1,000 yards four times. Breakup or not, that is the type of production the Raiders need.

4. Breshad Perriman, Buccaneers. Age: 26

Injuries and inconsistency resulted in the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns giving up on the former 2015 first-round pick. But a move to Tampa Bay last season — combined with a clean bill of health — resulted in a late-season surge that saw the speedy Perriman surpass 100 yards in receptions in each of the last three games.

He finished the year with 36 catches for 645 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 17.9 yards per reception. Perriman averaged more than 20 yards per reception in three of his last four games in 2019.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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