Oakland Raiders: Why Tight End Visanthe Shiancoe Is a Must-Sign Free Agent

Bryan HighfillCorrespondent IJuly 7, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 20: Visanthe Shiancoe #81 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates a gain against the Oakland Raiders at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on November 20, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Adam Bettcher /Getty Images)
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders have made plenty of moves this offseason; new general manager Reggie McKenzie (along with the help of new head coach Dennis Allen) is turning over a new era in the Bay Area. 

After cutting ties with players who were overpaid or underperforming, McKenzie has done well to add pieces to this roster in order to compete. 

This offseason, however, the Raiders didn't have many draft choices after the selection of quarterback Terrelle Pryor in last year's supplemental draft and the trading of this year's first-round pick and next year's second to Cincinnati for new franchise quarterback Carson Palmer

Speaking of Palmer, two weapons emerged for the veteran last season in wide receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore. Two wideouts who are meant to stretch the field for the big-armed QB. Jacoby Ford provides a legit slot weapon and gadget player for the Raiders as well. 

But one position on offense remains uncertain. Tight end. Of the top three tight ends currently on Oakland's roster, they combined for 19 receptions in 2011. That doesn't bode well for a team with most pieces in place to make a run in a division usually up for grabs. 

Don't get me wrong the Raiders, provided their receivers build on last year's production, will have a legit offense with the return of "Run-DMC," but Palmer needs a reliable weapon at the tight end position. 

Palmer forced balls into coverage too many times last season, often because his receivers made big plays, but sometimes because he didn't have a legitimate target to check down to, and in offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp's version of the West Coast offense, a tight end is a crucial component. 

Enter Visanthe Shiancoe.

As a Viking fan, "Shank" still has plenty left in the tank, which why it's odd he has yet to be signed by a team this offseason. That plays in Oakland's favor, though. Shiancoe has received little interest among teams, so he really wouldn't have too much leverage if the Raiders offered him a reasonable contract—he also would immediately sit atop Oakland's depth chart at the position. 

At age 33, Visanthe may have lost a step in his speed, but over the years he's proven to be extremely durable and a very reliable red-zone threat. As evidenced by his 11-touchdown season with Brett Favre in 2009. His production in Minnesota dropped in 2010 due to a season that sputtered out of control and in 2011 because of the emergence of young tight end Kyle Rudolph. Make no mistake though, Shiancoe can still play.

With three receivers who possess elite speed and run-after-catch ability, Shiancoe would provide a reliable underneath threat and checkdown option for Carson Palmer and the Raiders while also providing veteran leadership for young tight ends like Brandon Myers and David Ausberry. 

The Raiders could offer Shiancoe an incentive-laden contract (based on performance) and a chance to start on a team that looks primed to make noise in 2012.