How Josh Cribbs Fits with the Oakland Raiders

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystMay 15, 2013

Given the salary cap issues that the Oakland Raiders entered the offseason with this year, the team hasn't been able to do much damage in free agency. In fact, there have been quite a few more departures than arrivals.

However, that hasn't stopped general manager Reggie McKenzie from making a few smart signings, and the Raiders made another one Wednesday.

Return specialist Josh Cribbs, 29, had visited with a handful of prospective suitors over the past week, but questions about the condition of Cribbs' surgically repaired knee left the nine-year veteran without a new home.

Until now, that is. The Raiders must be confident enough in that knee to have brought Cribbs on board, and the question now becomes where he fits into the Oakland offense.

Cribbs was barely used in the passing game in Cleveland in 2012, catching only seven passes for 63 yards.

However, the year before, Cribbs was a much bigger part of the Browns' game plan on offense, reeling in 41 passes for 518 yards and four touchdowns.

With the departure of Darrius Heyward-Bey in free agency, an already thin wideout corps in Oakland is that much thinner. The depth chart is littered with players like Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, who have shown flashes of talent but also an inability to stay healthy.

Cribbs isn't going to single-handedly revamp that bunch. At the very least, however, he provides the Raiders with some depth at the position as well as a downfield threat who has some experience carrying the ball on reverses and from Wildcat sets.

Where Cribbs can really do some damage for the Raiders is on special teams.

It's an area where the Raiders could use a boost. The team ranked 20th in the NFL in kick returns in 2012, and no team in the league averaged fewer yards per punt return than Oakland's 5.1.

In Cribbs, the Raiders get a player who was third in kickoff return yardage in 2012 and fourth in average per return. He also ranked second in the NFL in punt return yardage as well as sixth in the league at 12 yards per return.

Cribbs didn't take a return to the house in 2012, but he's done so 11 times over the course of his career. That's led to Cribbs' three Pro Bowl nods, including a trip to Hawaii last year.

Given the present state of the Raiders' offense, those extra few yards of field position will no doubt come in handy, and if Cribbs and Jacoby come back healthy, he and Cribbs form an imposing duo of kick returners.

Cribbs, for his part, appears excited about a fresh start with a new team.

Fans of the Oakland Raiders should be excited, too. Much like the Kevin Burnett signing, this may not have been a deal that generates a ton of buzz. 

However, signing Cribbs is exactly the sort of move that improves a football team.