(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
The Oakland Raiders reshaped their wide receiver core this week, trading for Antonio Brown and signing Tyrell Williams in free agency. Jordy Nelson naturally fell down the pecking order then, and on Thursday he was released.
Nelson spent one season with the Raiders, tallying 63 receptions for 739 yards and three touchdowns. That was the second-lowest yardage total of his career, only surpassing his final season with the Green Bay Packers in 2017 (482 yards).
Nelson finished last season pretty strongly though, if only driven by volume. Over the final five games he had 38 catches (on 48 targets), as he clearly found some rapport with Derek Carr.
In December, the Raiders paid out a $3.6 million roster bonus to Nelson early for salary cap purposes. Head coach Jon Gruden also asserted the veteran wide receiver would be back for the second season of the two-year deal he signed last offseason
Getting Brown was the lead circumstance that pushed Nelson out, which in fairness to Gruden could not have been fully foreseen in December. But the move to pay out the bonus early looks odd, with no return in production on the back end for the team.
That said, a return to the Raiders at a lower salary number can’t be ruled out.
Nelson is clearly on the back end of his career approaching 34 years old, but he showed at the end of 2018 he has something left in the tank.
With free agency options significantly narrowed, and assuming he doesn’t just go back to the Raiders in a sort of pre-arranged move, these three teams could look to add Nelson in short order.
Mandatory Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images3. New England Patriots
The Patriots appear to be in the market for wide receivers, with only Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris added right now. Bringing back Chris Hogan is a possibility, but Nelson becoming available changes the equation of available options.
Nelson became Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target, and his down year in 2017 was partially driven by Brett Hundley starting nine games when Rodgers was injured. So it’s easy to see a quick rapport being built with Tom Brady, and New England is a good landing spot for any veteran player.