Michael Crabtree

Michael Crabtree signs one-year deal with Raiders

Michael Crabtree SF 49ers

Took long enough. Michael Crabtree to the Raiders made so much sense, for reasons both historical and current, for it not to happen. The Raiders have money and need guys who’ll make Derek Carr’s job easier. Crabtree wasn’t getting much notice and needed a job. The Raiders have signed too many notable ex-49ers to list here, and Al Davis passed on Crabtree and his injured foot years ago in favor of Darius Heyward-Bey and his sexy 40-yard dash time.

Now it’s official, and many 49ers fans are probably saying “good riddance.” I always understood the resentment toward Crabtree for a few reasons.

  1. He got off on a bad foot with the fans with his long holdout when the team needed all the help it could get.
  2. He always seemed to come down with an injury of some sort during the preseason.
  3. He was unstoppable in college, and even in his best year (2012) he never matched the promise he showed at Texas Tech.

But the diva and malingerer labels weren’t accurate. Unless things were different behind the scenes — and Crabtree didn’t seem like someone who concerned himself with putting on airs — he was a positive presence in the locker room. He just wanted to play football, man. And make plays, man.

Crabtree is unique, but his personality wasn’t toxic (as I had assumed before the 49ers provided me with access). He played through injuries, too. There was something wrong with his foot last year, whether he felt like admitting it or not. But even more striking, he underwent surgery to repair his torn Achilles on May 22, 2013. He returned to game action on Dec. 1, 2013. That’s six months and a week between a major surgery and running pass routes against NFL corners, or about six weeks less recovery time than Kobe Bryant needed. Crabtree is quite a bit younger than Bryant, and I’m not privy to the degree of each player’s respective tear, but Crabtree’s recovery was pretty remarkable for a guy who supposedly put himself over the team.

He averaged 61 receiving yards in eight games after returning, including 203 yards in three playoff games. Most of the focus was on his last play of the season, the pass in the end zone that Richard Sherman tipped to Malcolm Smith, a pass Colin Kaepernick shouldn’t have thrown.

So what will the Raiders get? That’s a tough one, since Crabtree’s health is a question and he was never all that speedy to begin with. His game is based on precise routes and yardage after the catch, and he’ll have to get on the same page quickly with a young quarterback. Crabtree never saw eye-to-eye with Alex Smith, but he and Kaepernick seemed to forge a connection almost from the moment Kaepernick started his first game against the Bears. Crabtree often found it difficult to get open downfield in 2014, and he dropped far too many passes for a guy known for having great hands.

But even if Crabtree doesn’t pan out for the Raiders, it’s not even close to a gamble for Reggie McKenzie. The Raiders went into this offseason needing to boost their payroll, and Crabtree should get at least cursory attention from opposing defenses to the point where it could help the team’s other receivers (including the rookie(s) they acquire next month).

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