It seems like every year the Oakland Raiders reach on a free agent who has very little value, with hopes of rehabilitating him and getting a great deal. Last season the team was successful with Donald Penn, a guy who was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because they thought he was done. It didn’t work so well for LaMarr Woodley, Maurice Jones Drew, Carlos Rogers and a list of others.
This offseason, the Raiders brought in three guys who would fall into the category of being a rehabilitation project: Trent Richardson, Michael Crabtree and J’Marcus Webb. So far, two of those three are doing very well with their new team and the third is not quite out of hope yet.
Michael Crabtree was one of the last free agents to sign this offseason, in large part because he believed his value was much higher than what the entire league thought. As a result, he ended up signing with the Raiders to a one-year deal — a “make good” kind of contract with his eye on earning a big payday next season. So far, he is doing just that. He has been the star of training camp. Though he did not see a lot of action in their first preseason game, he did have one catch and run that had people day dreaming of his Texas Tech days.
J’Marcus Webb was a starter in the league for a few years, but as his play continued to deteriorate with each passing year he soon found himself just trying to latch onto an NFL team. He too was one of the later signings of free agency and when he was brought to Oakland, many dismissed it as just a depth signing or camp body. Instead, he has reinvented himself as a guard and is currently in the lead to start at that position. Admittedly, his competition is not very stiff with Khalif Barnes and rookie John Feliciano. Still, his play has been solid and actually good in the run game and he should be a serviceable starter at worst.
Then there’s Trent Richardson. The former No. 3 overall pick flamed out in his first two NFL stops before finding himself in silver and black. This is likely his final chance to lengthen his NFL career and it hasn’t started off too well. He missed the first week of training camp with pneumonia and in the first preseason game he had five carries for 18 yards (3.6 ypc).
He continued to show poor vision, but the fact that he got back down to his college playing weight is not going unnoticed. He showed a decent burst and quickness that he did not have with the Colts. If he continues to run hard, there’s a chance he carves out a roster spot as their short-yardage back (because those guys are supposed to run right into the backs of their offensive linemen).
With all three reclamation projects looking more promising than usual and a roster full of young draft picks, here’s to hoping this is the final year of the Raiders reaching on project free agents in an effort to field a competitive team.