Signing T.J. Houshmandzadeh Makes the Oakland Raiders a Playoff Contender

James ArcellanaCorrespondent IISeptember 5, 2010

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 20:  T.J. Houshmandzadeh #84 of the Seattle Seahawks straight arms Sabby Piscitelli #21 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their game on December 20, 2009 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. The Buccaneers defeated the Seahawks 24-7. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

No team improved more this offseason than the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders completely overhauled their linebacking corps, added two defensive linemen, two offensive linemen, and added some much needed depth to their secondary.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that they released the disaster who wore No. 2 and traded for Jason Campbell? Despite the upgrades made by the Raiders, few are ready to call them a playoff contender. 

Saturday's NFL cut deadline provided the Raiders an opportunity to end all debate over whether or not they are ready to compete for the AFC West. If the Oakland Raiders are able to sign T.J. Houshmandzadeh, it would be difficult if not impossible to argue that the Raiders would not be in contention for their first AFC West crown since they went to the Super Bowl in 2002.

Besides the NFC West, the AFC West is probably the weakest division in the NFL.

The Kansas City Chiefs had a good of-season but they still have a long way to go before they are able to compete for the AFC West crown.

The Denver Broncos had a terrible offseason and took a huge step backwards. A year after the Broncos got rid of a Super Bowl-winning coach and a Pro Bowl quarterback, they dispensed of a top-five NFL receiver and one of their more dangerous receiving threats in Tony Scheffler.

Add to that the fact that the Broncos traded away a number of their draft picks in order to draft a quarterback who will not start for at least a couple of seasons, and you have a recipe to dwell in the lower half of the AFC West.

That leaves the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers have won the AFC West four years in a row, but are not the same team they were in the past. Despite Josh McDaniels' proclivity for chasing away top talent, the Chargers might have been the team to have suffered the biggest losses this offseason.

Wide receiver Vincent Jackson and left tackle Marcus McNeill are looking like they will not be playing for the Bolts this season. The loss of these two players could easily translate into three to five extra losses for the Chargers this season.

Signing T.J. Houshmandzadeh would be the perfect finishing touch to the best offseason of any team in the AFC West. Jason Campbell is already looking forward to working with a more talented group of receivers than he ever had in Washington, but adding a player the caliber of Houshmandzadeh would really allow Campbell to show the NFL what he is capable of.

Additionally, the Raiders have one of the youngest receiving corps in the NFL. Adding a veteran who has achieved as much as Houshmandzadeh has in his career would likely play a huge role in the development of young stars like Chaz Schilens, Louis Murphy, and Darius Heyward-Bey.

While Houshmandzadeh may not be in the prime of his career, he led the Seattle Seahawks in receiving and is still the type of player that other teams need to account for. Having a player like Houshmandzadeh would make every aspect of the Raiders offense better. Add that to the immense improvements that the Raiders made on defense this offseason and we could be looking at the 2010 AFC West Champions.