It’s been a rough few days for fans of the Oakland Raiders. Blessed with an abundance of salary-cap space and cursed with little talent, the team’s biggest moves were to sign right tackle Austin Howard and running back Darren McFadden. Two days and one debacle later, the Raiders finally made the splash everyone was expecting.
Defensive end Justin Tuck signed with the Raiders for two years and $11 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The team announced the deal within minutes, a sign that it was ready to move past an embarrassing situation that led to the voiding of a deal with offensive lineman Rodger Saffold.
One signing isn’t going to erase the embarrassment for the botched deal for Saffold, but it is a positive step in the right direction. Until Tuck’s signing, the Raiders had lost more talent in free agency than they had signed.
Tuck will likely play left defensive end for the Raiders, the position Lamarr Houston played for three years before flipping to the right side in 2013. Houston signed with the Chicago Bears, leaving the Raiders two holes at defensive end.
The Raiders also had pass-rusher LaMarr Woodley and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher in for a visit, but both are going to visit with the Tennessee Titans, according to Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune. Woodley and Hatcher are still in play for the Raiders, but it’s never a good thing when they leave the building without a signed contract.
With Tuck, the Raiders replaced Houston with an older, equally productive player. Also important is that they will pay Tuck less than Houston, even though the Raiders don't need to be pinching pennies.
In 1,049 snaps last year, Houston had six sacks, 16 quarterback hits and 41 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Houston was best against the run with a 14.9 grade but a negative-1.6 grade as a pass-rusher.
By comparison, Tuck had 12 sacks, 12 quarterback hits and 44 hurries in 896 snaps. Tuck’s pass-rush grade of 0.8 was just a little better than Houston, but he was also a strong run defender with a grade of 11.7.
|Players||Age in 2014||Yearly Pay||Snaps||PFF Run Defense||PFF Pass Rush||Sacks||Hits||Hurries|
Like Houston, Tuck has 10-sack upside. Unlike Houston, that upside may be in his past and not his future. Time will tell if that’s true, but Tuck intends to prove otherwise.
“Everyone talks about once you turn 30, it’s all downhill,” Tuck said on a conference call with local media. “I don’t believe in that. I don’t look at myself in that regard. I feel like I have a lot of great football left in me.”
If Tuck has good football left in him, he’ll have to produce in head coach Dennis Allen’s defensive scheme. A scheme, Tuck says, is like the one he ran with the New York Giants.
“I had some opportunity to look at some film while I was here and go over terminologies,” Tuck said. “I think I’ll fit in very well and hopefully build on the great year I had last year.”
The Raiders need Tuck to produce on the football field, but they also need him to take a leadership role in the locker room. Tuck was a team captain for the past four years with the Giants, and it was one thing that sold the Raiders on him.
“I think the efforts that I bring to this team off the field are going to be tremendous,” Tuck told the media. “That’s something I’m looking forward to doing.”
Signing Tuck makes sense for both sides, but the Raiders need to go out and put players around him. They still have a lot of need and cap dollars to throw around, and they will have to spend it on quantity and not quality now that all the best free agents are off the market.
Tuck told the media he would help recruit free agents Woodley, Hatcher and others. Tuck will join the efforts of current fullback Marcel Reece, who has been vocal in his support of the team.
“I already put my word in with both of [Woodley and Hatcher],” Tuck said. “We can get guys like that, that are used to winning and knows what it takes to win, just football players, that would help us rebuild this thing.”
The Raiders need all the help they can get.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. Follow Chris on Twitter.