Oakland Raiders Free Agency: Examining the Roster, One Week Later

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Dec 15, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders tight end Mychal Rivera (81) catches a touchdown pass over Kansas City Chiefs inside linebacker Derrick Johnson (56) in the third quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Chiefs defeated the Raiders 56-31. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

4. Tight Ends

Players lost or released: David Ausberry

Players signed: Lee Smith

Incumbents: Mychal Rivera, Nick Kasa, Brian Leonhardt, Scott Simonson

Probable starter: Mychal Rivera (and maybe Marcel Reece!)

Tight end is a position that Reggie McKenzie has made a priority in free agency, signing blocking TE Lee Smith, formerly of the Bills, and making a hard push to get former Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham, a capable dual-threat TE. McKenzie very obviously passed on former Broncos TE Julius Thomas, who was thought to be nearly a sure thing for the Raiders as recently as a month ago.

Mychal Rivera seems to be the clear-cut starter at TE on this roster. While he is not the best in-line blocker in the group, he has grown enormously as a receiving tight end since being drafted in 2013, and caught 58 passes for 534 yards and 4 TD’s last season, including six performances with five or more receptions. While he lacks the great top-end speed of a seam threat tight end, he has the large frame, length and leaping ability to be a red zone target, though he still needs to work on the consistency of his hands.

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Los Angeles Chargers: 3 Bargain targets still available in 2019 NFL free agency
Los Angeles Chargers: 3 Bargain targets still available in 2019 NFL free agency /

NFL Spin Zone

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 5 bargains still in need of a new team The Pewter Plank
  • Arizona Cardinals are releasing Jermaine Gresham Raising Zona
  • Arizona Cardinals: 4 potential cut candidates Raising Zona
  • David Johnson can carry Josh Rosen, Cardinals to win vs. 49ers FanSided
  • Arizona Cardinals: Sam Bradford still has some Sooner Magic left NFL Spin Zone
  • To compliment Rivera or off-set his limitations as a blocker, the Raiders added Lee Smith, a blocking TE who was a major part of some very solid rushing offenses for the Bills over the last four seasons. Smith is a 6’6″, 270 pound monster who has a mere 20 receptions for his career (Rivera had 20 in one three-week stretch of last season) but who is a stellar run and pass blocking TE who can make a difference in the Raider run game.

    The Raiders also have a few other tight ends on the roster who they will take into camp. Brian Leonhardt spent time as the Raiders starting TE early last season, and was the second TE most of the year, operating as a blocking specialist with his 6’5″, 255 pound frame, though he did catch five passes, including a touchdown. Nick Kasa, a 6’7″ monster who was a former college defensive lineman, was injured all last year, and is another blocking specialist. Scott Simonson, who was an undrafted free agent last year, played in four games in 2014 mostly on special teams. He was a very capable receiver in college for D II Assumption.

    There is also the possibility that this is finally the year we see Marcel Reece moved to play more of a tight end role. Reece, who has been a fullback his entire NFL career, was a college wideout and has been used heavily as a receiver by the Raiders, especially in 2012, when he recorded 52 catches for 496 yards. While he is undersized for the position at about 6’1″ and 240-250 pounds, he has excellent speed and route running ability, and his time as a fullback has made him into a very solid lead blocker who could do a lot of things from an H-back position. Because of his versatility, he can be used here, then motioned to a running back role or even split out wide or into a slot receiver spot, allowing for the Raider offense to present vastly different looks with the same personnel.

    Next: Raiders Roster Breakdown: Offensive Line