Do the Raiders need a top receiver?

February, 20, 2012
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There has been a lot of talk this offseason that the Oakland Raiders should try to add a No. 1 receiver in free agency.

There has been talk that Oakland will make a run at New Orleans' Marques Colston, who will be one of the top free-agent receivers available. It is a deep receiver class that also may include Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe and San Diego’s Vincent Jackson. So, Oakland will have some options if it wants to get into the receiver game in free agency.

While adding a player of Colston’s caliber would certainly help any offense, I don’t think the Raiders should make receiver a priority position.

The Raiders, who at last check were $11 million over the salary cap and one of four teams that still has to get under the cap, will eventually get under the cap. But don’t expect them to be able to be one of the NFL’s biggest spenders. That means Oakland must be prudent in its spending and address the defense first. There is immediate help needed at cornerback and perhaps at linebacker and at safety.

As appealing as adding a big-name receiver may be, the Raiders aren’t in horrible shape at the position. Yes, they do not have a legitimate No. 1 receiver on the roster. But they perhaps have one in the making.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, the No. 7 overall pick of the 2009 draft, made major strides in 2011. After catching a pitiful 35 passes in his first 26 games, Heyward-Bey broke out for 64 catches and 975 yards in 2011. Yes, he is still somewhat inconsistent. But Heyward-Bey deserves a chance to show what he can do in 2012.

There is also 2011 fifth-round pick Denarius Moore. He had 35 catches last season and made some special plays.

I think having Heyward-Bey and Moore as the starters in 2012 is a pretty good start, especially considering the presence of the dynamic, but small Jacoby Ford and the reliable Louis Murphy. The Raiders will probably let former top prospect Chaz Schilens -- whose career has been marred by numerous injuries -- walk in free agency.

A core of Heyward-Bey, Moore, Ford and Murphy (I’m sure other role players will be added) will suffice this season. The Raiders’ offseason must concentrate on defense. Adding a receiver is a luxury that can become a priority in 2013 if either Heyward-Bey and/or Moore fail to progress.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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