Oakland Raiders

Raiders Re-Sign Darren McFadden, Grading the Move and What It Means for Oakland

USA Today
Christopher HansenNFL AnalystMarch 11, 2014

The Oakland Raiders are still trying to find their way through the start of a much-anticipated offseason. Few expected their second move to be the re-signing of running back Darren McFadden.

As first reported by Fallon Smith of CSNBayArea.com, the Raiders will sign McFadden to a one-year contract. The deal is for a total of $4 million, according to Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com, but Joel Corry of the National Football Post reports that $2.25 million is not likely to be earned incentives and his cap number is just $1.554 million.

It’s a modest amount, but a bit of an odd marriage this early in free agency. The Raiders benched McFadden after returning from yet another injury last season in favor of Rashad Jennings, who is headed to the New York Giants, according Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

McFadden again has to prove he can stay healthy, but also that he can be productive when he is. McFadden has averaged just 3.3 yards per carry over the last two years, and whenever another running back has received opportunities in his place, they have been more productive.

In 2012, Mike Goodson averaged 6.3 yards per carry and Marcel Reece averaged 4.6 yards per carry in relief of the injured McFadden. In 2013, Jennings averaged 4.5 yards per carry and sent McFadden to the bench.

McFadden's Production 2012-2013
Player2012 YPA2012 Rec. Yards2013 YPA2013 Rec. Yards
Mike Goodson6.3195--
Marcel Reece4.64964.7331
Rashad Jennings--4.5292
Darren McFadden3.32583.3108
pro-football-reference.com

McFadden’s career average is still 4.2 yards per carry thanks to productive seasons in 2010 and 2011. He needs to produce near his career average to justify the deal and to provide real value. McFadden will be just 27 years old next season, so he’s still a young player and worth the risk, but his poor production over the last two years will make it hard for the Raider Nation to see it that way.

The Raiders are also focusing on the offensive line in free agency, which could really help the running game as a whole.  McFadden has obviously had a lot of trouble staying healthy, but it’s not as big a problem on a modest contract as it was in the past on his bloated rookie deal.

McFadden has per-game bonuses of $16,000 in his contract, per Corry, but he hasn’t ever played more than 13 games in a season. The Raiders are taking a small risk to try to squeeze something out of McFadden, but they will have alternatives if he fails.

Latavius Murray, who the Raiders drafted last season in the sixth round, is one such alternative. Murray may even compete for the starting job or split time with McFadden if he can also stay healthy. Murray spent last season on injured reserve, but he is cheap insurance against a McFadden injury at the very least.

McFadden is a very good receiver in the passing game and good in the locker room. Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie will take a lot of heat for overspending on offensive lineman Rodger Saffold, but this is a cheap deal with considerable upside for the Raiders.

Overall, the Raiders were wise to retain McFadden once it became clear Jennings was going to get a better offer on the open market. Running backs are still important even if they aren’t valued in free agency. McFadden is young, talented and will be motivated with incentives and because he can test the market again next season.  

 

Grade: B+

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