Thoughts on the second day of free agency for the Oakland Raiders, most notably including the addition of Jordy Nelson and the release of Michael Crabtree.
After day one of free agency, this is a rundown of everything that affected or involved the Oakland Raiders:
- Re-signed Justin Ellis
- Re-signed Lee Smith
- Lost Denico Autry
- Lost TJ Carrie
- Signed Griff Whalen
- Signed Derek Carrier
- Stayed out of bidding wars
- Linked to Doug Martin
- Linked to Jordy Nelson
- Interested in Rashaan Melvin
Heading into the second day of free agency, Raider Nation was hoping for some more action. And that’s exactly what they got.
Raiders Sign Muscle Hamster
To start things off, the rumor that started weeks ago thanks to a face-to-face meeting between Doug Martin and Jon Gruden became a reality, as the Raiders and Martin have agreed to terms on a deal.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 15, 2018
Per Ian Rapoport, Martin is expected to serve as depth and compete for playing time with the rest of the running backs in the mix. And per Mike Silver, the addition of Martin does not spell the end for Marshawn Lynch.
This is a bit of a head-scratcher. Martin has been in the NFL for six seasons, and four of them have been either poor performances or riddled by injuries — usually both. And in the last two seasons, Martin carried the ball 282 times for 827 yards (2.9 YPC). Not good.
Martin also has a spotty track record that includes failed drug tests, rehab, and a suspension. It’s difficult to see the upside here. However, the addition of Martin shouldn’t change any draft plans at the position — hopefully McKenzie and Gruden add a back via the draft because a long-term solution is still needed.
What this might mean, though, is the end for either DeAndre Washington or Jalen Richard. Martin and those two all offer a similar set of skills, so if Muscle Hamster can earn his keep, one of Washington or Richard could be traded or released.
Raiders Sign Jordy Nelson
With the connections to former Packers OC and WR Coach Edgar Bennett — now the WR Coach in Oakland — as well as to Reggie McKenzie, Jordy Nelson was obviously going to be linked to the Raiders. But how serious the talks would be was an entirely different question.
But after a night of wining and dining in the Bay Area, the Raiders closed the deal. Jordy had other visits lined up, but McKenzie and Gruden didn’t let him leave the building. Per his former teammate James Jones, Nelson will sign with the Raiders on a 2-year deal worth $15 million, and $13 million of it is guaranteed.
Breaking News: Jordy Nelson to the @RAIDERS on a Two-Year Deal….15M, 13M Guaranteed
— James Jones (@89JonesNTAF) March 15, 2018
Nelson’s resume of course speaks for itself. He’s been an outstanding wide receiver for many years, and he’s been the model of consistency at the position. Jordy is one of the best route runners in the game, and his hands are as reliable as any.
But he will also be 33 years old over the summer, he tore is ACL two seasons ago and he dealt with lingering shoulder issues in 2017. Aaron Rodgers missed much of last season, but even so, Jordy didn’t look like the same player he once was.
So like with any move, there are pros and cons. The contract being nearly fully guaranteed is steep, and it’s outside of the norm for McKenzie how does business. Which is telling to the amount of leverage Nelson had in this situation — the Raiders wanted him, and he made sure they paid accordingly.
One additional bright spot to this move is Jordy should prove to be a valuable teacher to Amari Cooper, and he’ll be more of a reliable fail-safe for Derek Carr than he’s ever had in his career.
But considering Jordy is getting basically the same money as Crabtree would have the next two seasons, and Nelson’s contract is mostly guaranteed while Crabtree’s was not, the benchmark for Nelson’s expected production should be set around 80+ catches and 8+ touchdowns. If he can do that, or more, than this will be a win for the Raiders.
End of the Crabtree Era
With the addition of Jordy Nelson comes the end of Michael Crabtree’s time in Oakland. Shortly before the Nelson signing was reported as a done deal, Adam Schefter tweeted that the team had officially moved on from Crabtree.
Crabtree had no guaranteed money remaining on his deal, but he would have been due roughly $16M over the next two seasons had he stayed with the team. So Jordy’s deal is about $1M less over the next two years, except the Raiders are stuck with $13M of it regardless of Jordy’s health or production.
When McKenzie signed Crabtree to a one-year prove it deal prior to the 2015 season, many in Raider Nation were not on board with the move. Crab had not lived up to his draft slot, he had a reputation as a diva who was a problem in the locker room, and he rubbed many in the fan base the wrong way when he was seen on camera laughing out loud when the Raiders drafted Darius Heyward-Bey over him.
But he quickly won over much of the fan base with his play on the field. He was signed to a four-year extension before the end of his first season, and he recorded 85 catches for 922 yards and 9 TDs in year one and 89 catches for 1,003 yards and 8 TDs in year two.
Crabtree was the most productive wide receiver on the team, the most reliable, and the most clutch. He came up huge in several big moments, but he also had his flaws. Drops were a problem, and some of that diva attitude reportedly resurfaced towards the end of his third season with the team.
And so, the Crabtree era is over.
All that being said, the Jordy for Crabtree swap seems like a wash at best. Jordy is 28 months older, guaranteed $13M more over the next two seasons, and has recent injury history working against him. While Crabtree has issues with drops, and there may or may not be some problems with him in the locker room.
Crab will certainly land on his feet somewhere, and it will be interesting to compare how these two perform over the next two seasons.
Addressing The Defense
With offense being much of the focus in day one and for the better part of day two of free agency, the defense may also be getting a few fresh faces in the near future.
Per Adam Schefter, former Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead was set to visit the team, and Ian Rapoport is reporting that the two sides are nearing a deal.
Whitehead has played all six years of his career in Detroit, and he has only missed three games over that span. He’ll be 28 before the draft and has enjoyed a decent career to date.
All in all, Whitehead is considered a good but not great tackler, with above average athleticism and questionable ability in coverage. He is versatile, though, as he has played both inside and outside linebacker spots.
He was actually a player I had a lot of interest in the Raiders signing two years ago, when he was still 25 and his upside seemed a bit higher than what he panned out to be. Still, he should come cheap and would at the very least solidify the linebacker depth, with the potential to be a low-end starter.
Update: The Raiders announced the signing of Tahir Whitehead.
Ready to put in the work.
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) March 16, 2018
Another defensive player was in town to visit on Thursday, and that was Tank Carradine — per Vic Tafur of The Athletic.
Carradine just finished his fourth year with the Niners, failing to live up to his billing as a second-round draft pick. After recording 11 sacks in his final season of college, Tank only managed to accrue 5.5 sacks through his first four seasons. He’s been decent in run support, but at this point he is what he is. He’s not going to get much better going forward.
Tank just turned 29 last month, and while he won’t fill the void of Denico Autry as a pass rusher, he would at least be a quality rotational lineman. Perhaps the biggest issue with Tank is that he has struggled to stay healthy for much of this career. So his signing, if it happens, wouldn’t be a bad move by any means, but it’s not much to get excited about either.
The third and final rumored free agent visit is that of safety Marcus Gilchrist, per Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review Journal. But this one ended up being a done deal, as the team announced his signing as a one-year deal a few hours later.
Gilchrist enjoyed a nice season in 2017, starting most of the year for the Texans. Between Houston, the Chargers and the Jets, he has actually been a starter for most of the last five seasons. A low-end starter, but a starter nonetheless.
This one might seem a bit peculiar on the surface. Obi Melifonwu’s rookie season was lost due to injury so he hasn’t earned the second starting safety job alongside Karl Joseph, but he was a second-round pick and you would figure he would get first crack at the job. Expect Gilchrist to end up penciled in as the starter, with Obi hot on his trail.
Also, it’s worth noting that Gilchrist has played some cornerback in the past. Austin Gayle of Pro Football Focus has some details on exactly how versatile he is:
#Raiders new S Marcus Gilchrist in one word: Versatile.
The 5-foot-10, 198-pounder and former second-round pick played significant defensive snaps (100+) at free safety, strong safety, slot cornerback and linebacker with HOU in 2017. https://t.co/8dpwTozaIa
— Austin Gayle (@AustinGayle_PFF) March 16, 2018
And you know the thought of a player that can play multiple positions makes McKenzie light up like a Christmas tree.
The final thing to note here is that with the presumed departure of Reggie Nelson, Gilchrist will add a veteran presence to the secondary that will be filled with players on their rookie contracts. Consider Gilchrist a quality stop-gap option.
Raiders Sign Keith Smith
To wrap up the roundup for day two of free agency, the Raiders went local and signed San Jose State alum Keith Smith to a 2-year deal worth 4.2 million.
The #Raiders and FB Keith Smith have agreed to terms on a 2-year worth $4.2million, source said.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 15, 2018
Smith was a linebacker in college that transitioned to fullback to make it in the NFL. He stuck with the Cowboys and did quite well for himself, and he became an asset on special teams. Jon Gruden loves his fullbacks, and now he has two of them in Jamize Olawale and Keith Smith. Pair that with two run-blocking tight ends in Lee Smith in Derek Carrier, and Gruden has the toys he needs to implement a run-heavy attack.
Plus, who knows, the Raiders may even give him some run at linebacker considering the lack of depth at the position. But again, his value is going to be mostly on special teams, where he thrived with the Cowboys under none other than Rich Bisaccia.
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) March 16, 2018