HENDERSON, Nev. — Sure, there was Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. But ‘Coop’ was too inconsistent and suffered from the dropsies too much, and ‘Crab’ — he put up numbers, but his best days were spent in San Francisco.
Jordy Nelson? He still had those “White Lightning” moves but had slowed and was often getting caught from behind.
Antonio Brown took down the entire organization with his training camp implosion and release, the aftershocks of which were still being felt in the streets of Silver and Blackdom two years later.
Henry Ruggs III was starting to come into his own early last season before his high-speed car crash while under the influence of alcohol claimed the life of a 23-year-old woman and her dog, and Ruggs was cut. And DeSean Jackson just never quite vibed.
So yeah, Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has had “names” to throw the ball to in his eight-year NFL career. But with Thursday’s blockbuster trade with the Green Bay Packers for Davante Adams, Carr not only has his first true, still-in-his-prime No. 1 receiver, he also has a familiar and comforting face, reuniting with his old Fresno State wideout for the first time since they entered the NFL together in 2014, 17 selections apart from as second-round picks.
In fact, Adams just might be the first alpha wideout in his prime who actually, you know, wants to be a Raider since Hall of Famer Tim Brown. (Randy Moss doesn’t count because, well, you know).
Consider: Adams is just 29 and last season set single-season franchise records for the Packers in catches (123) and receiving yards (1,553) and became just the sixth player in league history with 120-plus catches, 1,500-plus yards and 11-plus touchdown catches in the same season, with league MVP Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball.
Adams is also the only player in NFL history to author three seasons of 110-plus catches, 1,350-plus receiving yards and 11-plus TD catches, doing so in 2018, 2020 and 2021.
The soon-to-be 31-year-old Carr, meanwhile, is coming off a career-best 4,804 passing yards, though he was picked off a career-worst 14 times and was sacked a career-high 40 times behind a rebuilt offensive line.
And therein lies the rub.
Because unless the Raiders shore up things up front to give Carr time, it won’t matter who is running routes for him.
Acquiring Adams was a boon for the Raiders’ new regime of general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels, whose offense will be new for all involved … except for the former New England Patriots the Raiders signed in free agency, like running back Brandon Bolden and fullback Jakob Johnson.
The move might turn out to be the biggest splash yet in an ever-escalating AFC West gathering of talent, with the Denver Broncos acquiring quarterback Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks and signing edge rusher Randy Gregory; the Los Angeles Chargers adding edge rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson; and the six-time defending division champion Kansas City Chiefs still boasting quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce and receiver Tyreek Hill.
And with Adams coming to Las Vegas and signing a five-year contract averaging $28.5 million per season, an extension for Carr, who is entering the final year of his five-year, $125 million deal, has to be in the offing. Otherwise, why would Adams come to Southern Nevada if not to hook up for the foreseeable future with his central California valley college bestie?
Adams as WR1 also gives Carr in particular, the Raiders in general, a dominating pass-catching corps. Slot man Hunter Renfrow is coming off a 103-catch campaign. Darren Waller is one of the most dangerous tight ends in the game. Bryan Edwards can continue to mature as a possession receiver and red zone target. Same with tight end Foster Moreau. Versatile free-agent pickup Mack Hollins should fit in nicely, too.
It seemed like the Raiders were sitting and twiddling their thumbs while the rest of the division lapped them in the legal tampering period of free agency this week. Rather, they were biding their time.
Because by going all-in on Adams in trading their first- and second-round picks in this year’s draft, and acquiring a prolific pass-rusher in Chandler Jones to pair with Maxx Crosby, the Raiders are now more than competitors in the hyper-competitive AFC West; you can say with a straight face they are Super Bowl contenders.
So long as the O-line protects Carr, there are no excuses. Again.