Up next in the Oakland Raiders roster review series is the tight end position. For years, the tight end was basically non-existent in Oakland’s offense. If a tight end is a young quarterback’s best friend then Derek Carr has been in need of a best friend for most of his career. Last season, that changed with the addition of Jared Cook and now, suddenly, the tight end position looks like it could be one of the team’s strengths moving forward.
Starter: Jared Cook
Backups: Clive Walford, Pharaoh Brown
Impending Free Agents: Lee Smith
Last season, Jared Cook was the team leader in receiving yards and only four short of being the team leader in catches as well. He was a huge upgrade to the offense, even if the offense as a whole took a huge step backwards. The Raiders haven’t had a consistent and dynamic threat at tight end since Zach Miller left back in 2011.
With Cook, they now have that and it was clear very early on that Derek Carr appreciated having a consistent tight end, as he targeted him often. Cook will continue to be a big part of the offense in 2018, and hopefully with a better offensive scheme, will have an even bigger year.
Clive Walford may not have been the guy many hoped he would be when the Raiders drafted him, but he looked like a decent backup last season when called upon (which wasn’t very often). He was starting to gain a little bit of momentum late in the year before getting injured and missing the end of the season. He has one more year on his contract and unless he shows up fairly big this season, you can bet Oakland will be moving on from him next offseason.
Lee Smith has done well with the Raiders, being an enforcer and extra blocker along the offensive line, but his time in Silver and Black is likely coming to an end. He was fairly highly paid for a non-pass-catching tight end and the Raiders really didn’t use him as often or with as much success in 2017. There’s always a chance that Jon Gruden will decide he wants Smith back, but more likely that Smith will sign elsewhere in free agency.
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