Remember Louis Murphy?

murphy_louis_panthers.jpg

Remember Louis Murphy?

At first, the trade was met with a bit curiosity. Even if it made sense.

After all, Louis Murphy, it could be argued, was the Raiders' most productive and dependable wide receiver over his first three NFL seasons, a stretch that included JaMarcus Russell under center.

But 14 games into his trade to Carolina for an undisclosed conditional draft pick on July 23 -- reportedly a seventh-round selection -- both the Panthers and Raiders see it as a win-win deal. The Panthers have a speedy threat to come off their bench and the Raiders have a draft pick to continue their re-build with a slew of young pass catchers.

"Louis Murphy has done a great job for us, he really has," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said on a conference call with Bay Area reporters Wednesday. "He’s really helped us in terms of our deep ball threat. When Brandon LaFell went down with an injury, he stepped in and became our No. 2 receiver and he has been a good vertical threat. He's made a couple clutch catches for us the last few weeks. It’s good to have him here."

Murphy has played in all 14 games for the Panthers thus far, starting five, and has 21 catches for 274 yards (13.1 yards per catch) and a touchdown. Officially, he is listed second on the Panthers' depth chart, behind five-time Pro Bowler Steve Smith.

"He likes it," said Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, selected in the same 2009 draft as Murphy, who is from Florida.

"It’s closer to his hometown, so that’s good. They won three games in a row, right? There you go. So, I guess he’s happy."

Actually, the Panthers have won two in a row, and three of four. But the point is made.

In three seasons with the Raiders, Murphy, a fourth-round draft pick, averaged 30 catches for 457 yards and three TDs.

A freak collision with teammate Marcel Reece at Denver in 2010 resulted in a bruised lung and seemed to alter his fate in Oakland. Before the injury, Murphy had 55 receptions for 858 yards (15.6 yards per catch) and five touchdowns in 23 games. In his ensuing 18 games, Murphy caught 35 passes for 513 yards (14.7 yards per catch) and did not have a TD. Sports hernia surgery following the 2011 NFL lockout also slowed Murphy, as did an injury during offeason activities this past spring.

Perhaps a change of scenery was necessary, especially with the Raiders drafting another wideout in Juron Criner last April and finding a diamond in the rough in free agent Rod Streater.

Because who could have seen Streater becoming just the seventh undrafted rookie to catch at least 33 passes in a season since 2000?

"I talked to (Murphy) last night for about an hour," said Heyward-Bey. "I talk to him every other week, every couple of weeks.

"It was weird at first, but it’s been awhile so you just adjust. It’s just like high school; you’re friends in high school and then you go to college. You don’t see them as much. But we keep in touch."

Obviously, the Raiders would prefer to not see him making plays Sunday. Or the other guy the Raiders traded to Carolina this offseason -- offensive lineman Bruce Campbell, for running back Mike Goodson.

"We’re not going against each other personally, so it really doesn’t matter," Heyward-Bey said of Murphy. "It’s just going to be good to talk to him before the game, talk to him after the game and stuff like that."

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.

They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.

Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.

“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”

While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.

The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.

“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.

"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.

Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.

Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.

“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”

Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.

“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”