ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders are scheduled to have 13 unrestricted free agents this offseason, after the team broke through with a 12-4 season and its first playoff appearance since 2002.
And on special teams: long-snapper Jon Condo.
TE Mychael Rivera
2016 base salary: $1.671 million
Why he should stay: Rivera, the second of three sixth-round draft picks by the Raiders in 2013, after running back Latavius Murray but before defensive tackle Stacy McGee, has flashed at times in Oakland. Yes, despite being slightly undersized for a tight end at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds. He has been more of a pass-catching tight end than a blocker, especially early in his career as he caught four touchdown passes in each of his first two seasons. He peaked in 2014 with 58 catches for 534 yards in 16 games, including 10 starts, but has been caught in a numbers game at the position since, with the arrivals of Lee Smith, Clive Walford and Gabe Holmes. Still, Rivera has the trust of quarterback Derek Carr deeper down the field as his 10.7 yards per catch average equaled a career high. Also, showed he could be a safety valve for rookie QB Connor Cook in the Raiders’ playoff loss at the Houston Texans with four catches for 31 yards.
Why he should go: Rivera was purportedly on the trading block last offseason, before Holmes went on injured reserve with an ankle injury and Lee Smith joined him on IR early in the season with a broken ankle. As such, Rivera was inactive for the first three games of the season and played in a career-low 13 games, starting a career-low two games. His 18 catches for 192 yards were also career lows and his one touchdown equaled a career worst. That does not portend to having much of a future in Oakland, does it?
The quote: “Well, he’s the consummate professional. Very team orientated ... with us dressing two tight ends starting out the year, he didn’t get a lot of action, if any. He kept working on his trade and then when we had the injury to Lee [Smith] and circumstances changed, he was ready to step in. It wasn’t like he needed a break-in period or anything, he just stepped in. When we needed him, of course he was there. Very accountable, and (a) super player to have on the team.” -- former Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, on Rivera.
The thought: The Raiders tight ends were all but invisible last season, their 581 receiving yards as a group ranked the third-lowest of any team in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. And while Rivera averaged 1.10 yards receiving per route run, which was 65th out of 133 tight ends in the league, it was better then Walford’s 1.07 yards per route. Still, with Holmes and Smith expected to make full comebacks and Oakland expecting a bounce-back year from Walford as a pass-catcher, it’s hard to see the Raiders investing much money in bringing Rivera back in free agency.