A look back at the 2017 season of Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree, whose roster spot is in jeopardy following a down year.
It was an up and down season for much of the Oakland Raiders offense in 2017, but it would be hard to find a player that had more of a rollercoaster season than Michael Crabtree.
In 2016, Crabtree enjoyed one of his best seasons as a professional and his best with the Silver and Black. He posted a career high for receptions in a season with 89, had his first 1,000 yard receiving season since 2012 and added 8 touchdowns as he emerged as Derek Carr’s favorite red zone target.
However, in the span of just one season, Crabtree went from the primary red zone target to a likely offseason cut due to his inconsistency on the field and rumored problems in the locker room.
Crabtree started the 2017 season off with back-to-back games of six receptions, including a spectacular three-touchdown performance in the Week 2 win over the New York Jets. He made a mockery of the Jets secondary all day, burning cornerback Juston Burris for two of his touchdowns and winning a jump ball over Buster Skrine for a third.
— Bovada Official (@BovadaLV) September 17, 2017
In the Week 3 matchup against the Washington Redskins, like much of the Raiders offense that night, Crabtree was a no-show. He finished the game with 1 reception for 7 yards and eventually left the game early with a chest injury. The chest injury was severe enough to keep him out of the following week’s game against the Denver Broncos.
Crabtree seemed to find his groove again quickly, scoring a touchdown in three straight games following his injury. This included one of those games being with backup quarterback EJ Manuel at the helm in place of an injured Derek Carr. The following game against the Buffalo Bills, Crab added 5 more receptions to give him 33 receptions at the halfway point of the season — 14 less than he had at the halfway point a season ago. It was becoming clear that while the red zone numbers were remaining consistent, Crabtree’s overall impact had taken a step back.
The second half of the 2017 season did not get any better. He tallied 3 catches for 40 yards in the win over the Miami Dolphins and went on to catch 6 passes for 51 yards in the loss versus New England — much of which was during garbage time.
Things really took a turn for the worst during the Week 12 matchup with the Denver Broncos, and this game may go down as one of the worst moments of Crabtree’s career. Going into the game, everyone knew of the history between him and Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib, thanks to Talib ripping the chain off of Crabtree’s neck during a game in 2016.
In their most recent bout, it seemed Crabtree was out for revenge, wasting no time to start a brawl by blocking Talib 10 yards into the sidelines early in the game, eventually throwing him to the ground. From there, all hell broke loose.
“This was the highlight of the season and it’s not even close.”@howaboutafresca: Crabtree/Talib fight was the most entertaining moment of a historically boring NFL season.
— FOX Sports Radio (@FoxSportsRadio) November 29, 2017
This was a run play to the opposite side of the two players. The play was already over but Crabtree grabbed ahold of Talib’s pads and continued to block him towards the Broncos sideline. He eventually tackled Talib all the way to the ground before members of the Broncos sideline jumped in. Talib eventually ripped Crabtree’s helmet off before his teammates pushed him aside, and he also got Crabtree’s chain once again. After things cooled down for a moment, Talib and Crabtree snuck away from everyone, met again on the field and multiple punches were exchanged.
Both were ejected from the game, along with Raiders guard Gabe Jackson. Crabtree finished the game with zeros on the stat line, and it seemed clear he had no intent of playing football that afternoon. The NFL initially handed him a two game suspension, but he appealed and the suspension was later reduced to one game.
After serving his suspension in Week 13, many Raiders fans figured he would see a decreased role in offense upon his return. But an ankle injury to teammate Amari Cooper led to Crabtree being targeted a combined 30 times in the following games against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys. He finished with 7 receptions in each, including a two-touchdown performance against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.
— Bovada Official (@BovadaLV) December 18, 2017
But despite the high volume in targets and receptions, Crabtree was held under 61 receiving yards in each game — which only cemented the fact that he was no longer a threat in the deep passing game.
Despite the rocky middle half of the season and the suspension, it looked like Crabtree was going to finish the year off strong. However, Cooper returned from injury in Week 16 and Crabtree’s role in the offense did decrease in the final two games of the season. In the Christmas matchup with the Eagles, he was targeted only three times and could not haul in a single reception. To his defense, Carr arguably had his worst game of the year and the offense as a whole could not get anything going. Jack Del Rio later announced that Crabtree had injured his hamstring during the game and his status for the final regular season game was in question.
Week 17 came around and Crabtree was active for the season finale against the Chargers, but he did not play much and reportedly took himself out of the game. He finished with 2 receptions for 17 yards and was on the field for less than 20 snaps. In a post game interview he stated, “I played probably 13 plays, wasn’t in the game plan, so I did what I was supposed to do.”
Crabtree finished the season with 58 receptions, 618 receiving yards, 8 receiving TDs and 5 drops. He had only five games in which he finished with 60 yards or more in a game, never finishing with more than 83 in a single game.
As soon as the season ended, rumors swirled that Crabtree was going to be let go during the offseason. He is scheduled to make $7.69 million next year, but if the team decides to cut the veteran wide receiver there would be $0 dead money against the salary cap.
Reggie McKenzie and Jon Gruden will have a decision to make on whether or not to retain Crabtree in 2018, but it’s certainly possible he has played his last game for the Raiders.