The Raider Ramble takes a look at the tight end position for the Raiders from this past season to its future prospects
Jared Cook had solid production this season but not where it really counted, which was in the red zone. He only had a handful of targets and two touchdowns. That has really been the story of Cook’s career where he’s been a good “between the 20’s” weapon but can’t seem to find the end zone enough with only 19 career touchdowns in nine seasons. He has a $5.3 million cap number for 2018, which is not bad for a pretty good tight end but the Raiders could look to upgrade. An elite red-zone tight end would obviously benefit Derek Carr tremendously.
Draft or Free Agency?
A quick look at the draft shows a weak tight end class so the place for the Raiders to focus would be in free agency. The list is topped by Jimmy Graham, who’s coming off a very disappointing run with the Seahawks, although he did find the end zone 10 times this season. While his stock is clearly down, there will still likely be a number of teams interested, which should put him out of the Raiders’ price range.
The guy I would look into is Tyler Eifert. Eifert’s been incredibly productive when healthy, which is really the only issue when talking about Eifert. It looks like he’ll have a full recovery by OTA’s but it’s still a back surgery he’s coming back from, which has a tendency to linger. That’s aside from ankle, elbow, shoulder and neck issues he’s had to deal with. Hopefully, you can land him on a one year prove-it deal with incentives. The Bengals haven’t ruled out trying to bring him back but I don’t see it with the emergence of Tyler Kroft as a viable threat. I’m sure there will be other teams to contend with as far as getting Eifert on that type of deal.
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A second guy to look at would be former Tampa second-round pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He settled in nicely the last year with the Jets and seems to be passed the off-field problems he dealt with early in his career. He is clearly on the upswing but without the numbers that would justify a large deal. There would be stiff competition with the Jets, who have a ton of cap space and would like to bring him back.
The return of Jon Gruden, however, might mean the Raiders go with Cook as the top tight end next year. Perhaps Gruden and Co. will finally be able to maximize Cook’s talent. Let’s not forget Gruden loves his veterans.