Anderson, 26, ostensibly replaces starter Dan Campbell on the roster.
The Lions placed Campbell on injured reserve on Saturday because of an elbow injury that he sustained in a Sept. 16 game. At the time, Detroit elevated rookie Rudy Sylvan from the practice squad but wanted a more veteran presence. Sylvan was waived to create a roster spot for the addition of Anderson.
Sean McHugh, a third-year veteran, has replaced Campbell as the starter. McHugh, though, is best noted as a blocker and has only eight career receptions. Although the Lions' offense doesn't utilize the tight end position very much in the passing game design of coordinator Mike Martz, the team wanted to add a more accomplished receiver.
In his three seasons with the Raiders, Anderson had 62 receptions for 763 yards and six touchdowns. He twice caught 24 or more passes in a season and demonstrated the ability occasionally to get deep down the middle of the field. At 6-feet-6 and 270 pounds, Anderson is a big target and possesses good speed.
A onetime college defensive end, the former San Jose State standout was selected by the Raiders in the seventh round of the 2004 draft. He has appeared in 39 games.
Contract details were not immediately available, but it is likely that Campbell signed a one-year deal for at or near the league minimum of $510,000 for a three-year veteran.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.