The Raiders had the NFL’s worst offense last season in terms of rate of moving the chains differential and have been in search of wide receiver help for young quarterback Derek Carr this off-season. They made a big offer to both Randall Cobb and Jeremy Maclin and they’ve been tied to both Amari Cooper and Kevin White with the 4th overall pick. They finally added a receiver here in Michael Crabtree. However, while Cobb and Maclin were top end receivers and White and Cooper have the potential to be top end receivers, Crabtree is very similar to what they already have in guys in James Jones and Rod Streater, slower possession receivers that aren’t #1 receivers, that don’t shift coverage, and that have the majority of their production in similar parts of the field.
Crabtree was seen as a steal when the 49ers drafted him 10th overall in 2009, but he never really lived up to expectations. He looked like he was on his way towards living up to those expectations in 2012, when he caught 85 passes for 1105 yards and 9 touchdowns on 118 targets (72.0%) and 433 routes run (an average of 2.55 yards per route run), grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked wide receiver. He was even better down the stretch that season, catching 61 passes for 880 yards and 8 touchdowns in his final 10 games, including playoffs. That’s 98 catches for 1408 yards and 13 touchdowns over 16 games.
However, he tore his Achilles the following off-season and was never the same. He caught just 19 passes for 284 yards and a touchdown in 5 games in 2013 (34 catches for 487 yards and a touchdown in 8 games if you count playoffs) and then was even worse on a per game basis in 2014. He played all 16 games, but caught just 68 passes for 698 yards and 4 touchdowns on 102 targets (66.7%) and 474 routes run (1.47 yards per route run). His per game yardage numbers in 2014 were the worst of his career and he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 95th ranked wide receiver out of 110 eligible. 2012 remains his only 1000+ yard season and he’s graded out below average on Pro Football Focus in 3 of 6 seasons, including each of the last 2 seasons.
I definitely don’t hate the value. I expected Crabtree to get about 5-6 million dollars annually on a multi-year deal this off-season and the Raiders are getting him cheap late in free agency, on a 1-year deal worth 3 million with another 2 million available in incentives. Crabtree is still a starting caliber player and looked on his way towards becoming one of the best young receivers in the game prior to a May 2013 Achilles tear so there’s some bounce back potential (though the rest of the league didn’t seem to think so). I just think it’s a weird fit. Between Crabtree, Jones, Streater, and deep threat Andre Holmes, the Raiders have a lot of #2 and #3 guys at wideout, but not a #1. While this deal makes it less likely they’ll go wide receiver at 4, in favor of someone like defensive tackle Leonard Williams, it doesn’t preclude them from doing so. Streater, Holmes, and Crabtree will all be free agents next off-season, while James Jones will be going into an age 32 contract year in 2016, owed a non-guaranteed 3.1 million. Besides, as I mentioned, the Raiders don’t have a #1 caliber receiver either in the short-term or the long-term.