What to do with Darrius Heyward-Bey?

February, 5, 2013
2/05/13
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The Oakland Raiders are over the salary cap, and will likely have to cut some players to help get under the cap.

Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly is a top candidate to be cut, and quarterback Carson Palmer, who is due to make more than $13 million, will likely have to take a pay cut to stay with the team. Another name that continues to pop up on the list of potential cuts is receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey.

I think the Raiders should find a way to keep Heyward-Bey. There is no doubt his contract has to be reworked. He is entering the final year of a five-year contract that paid him more than $38 million after he was the surprise No. 7 pick in the 2009 draft. Heyward-Bey’s salary-cap number is more than $10 million this season.

There is no way he is worth it. But I think Oakland should try to keep him if Heyward-Bey is walking to accept a big pay cut. He might not have a choice. He will get interest on the open market, but not at a big rate.

This year’s free agent receiver class is strong. I think Heyward-Bey might be better off playing out this year and trying to improve this season.

Heyward-Bey had a slow start to his career, but he had a breakout year in 2011 with 64 catches. However, he regressed in 2012. Heyward-Bey, who has struggled with hand issues his entire career, had 41 catches in 2012.

Heyward-Bey is an average receiver, and I don’t think he will ever be elite. But I think Oakland should keep him for one more year, because it needs him.

Denarius Moore has star potential, but he is still inconsistent. Jacoby Ford has ability, but he has had trouble staying healthy and missed all of last season with a nagging foot injury. Second-year players Rod Streater and Juron Criner also have potential, but they might not be ready to be major contributors yet.

If Oakland can figure out a way to hold on to Heyward-Bey for the final year of his contract at a reasonable rate, it might be worth its while.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter

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