On Thursday, Charles Woodson described his options for playing in 2013 as having “dried up.” He went on to say that he’d be open to joining a team in rebuilding mode, nothing that “When this process first started out, that was my thing, I needed to go to a contender. I know I am towards the end of my career, but a this point, I want to play football.”
One such team that is both in rebuilding mode (no matter what Reggie McKenzie says) and in need of some help in the secondary is the Oakland Raiders. I shouldn’t need to validate that last point, but I will. According to Football Outsiders, the Raiders fielded the third worst secondary in the NFL last season, earning a Pass-only Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) of 22.6% (In Defensive DVOA, the lower the ranking, the better).
While the Raiders have addressed the secondary — by drafting DJ Hayden among other moves — there is still a gaping hole at free safety. Unless, of course, you count Usama Young or Reggie Smith as a viable starter, a point I’ll address later. And, as Levi Damien of SBNation points out, the Raiders have shown interest in veteran players at discounted rates. “They re-signed 33-year old Andre Carter,” Damien writes, “and were ready to sign 34-year old cornerback, Terrance Newman as well.”
Obviously, at the heart of the issue is exactly what Charles Woodson has left in the tank. If his recent trend of play suggests anything, it’s that he may be running of fumes, so to speak.
Charts of both Woodson’s Win Probability Added (WPA) and Expected Points Added (EPA) illustrate the steep declines in Woodson’s performance.
WPA per Advanced NFL Stats: WPA is the measure of a play’s impact on the outcome of a game. An individual player’s WPA is the sum of the WPA of the plays in which that player was directly involved. Being directly involved is defined as an offensive player who ran, threw, or kicked the ball, was targeted by a pass, or flagged for a penalty. Defensive players are credited for WPA when they tackle or sack the ball carrier, are credited with an assisted tackle or sack, cause a fumble, defend a pass, or are flagged for a penalty.
EPA per Advanced NFL Stats: EPA is the measure of a play’s impact on the score of the game. An individual player’s EPA is the sum of the EPA of the plays in which that player was directly involved. Being directly involved is defined as an offensive player who ran, threw, or kicked the ball, was targeted by a pass, or flagged for a penalty.
The charts clearly show that Woodson is not the player he was just a few years ago. This, of course, is of no surprise. The extent of his decline might be, however. While some — perhaps, all — of Woodson’s ineffectiveness can be attributed to injury, it should be noted that Woodson is not only a 36-year old football player, but he’s one that has logged 206 career games. Which is to say, Lindsey Lohan has a better chance of recovery than Woodson.
Still, the sobering truth for the Raiders is that Woodson — despite his decline — would be their best option at free safety this season.
In comparison to the presumptive starter, Usama Young, Woodson is clearly the better player.
Aside from on-field performance, Woodson could provide veteran leadership on a defense that will likely be fielding at least seven new starters. It would also enable countless Raiders’ fans to unearth their old Woodson’s jerseys (Remember: You left yours in the back of your closet, behind the Sapp and Moss jerseys). Because of this, the signing of Woodson might be a win-win for the organization and fans alike.