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Michael Crabtree Signing a Low-Risk, High-Reward Move by Raiders

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystApril 14, 2015

Associated Press

With the NFL draft only a few weeks away and free agency over a month old, the pickings have gotten a little slim as far as available veterans are concerned.

However, the Oakland Raiders went sifting through the scratch-and-dent bin Monday, and the result may wind up being one of the better values of free agency with Michael Crabtree, who spent the first six years of his career with the San Francisco 49ers.

Michael Crabtree @KingCrab15

It's official.. I'm a Raider

ESPN reported it's a one-year, $3 million deal, with $2 million in incentives.

It's the conclusion of a tumultuous few weeks for the former top-10 pick. After all, not too long ago, Bleacher Report's Jason Cole reported the market for Crabtree's services had "crashed," in no small part due to his contract demands.

Well, Crabtree liked what he heard across the Bay, and it's hard not to like this signing for the Raiders.

Yes, Crabtree's numbers have been way down since he exploded for over 1,100 receiving yards and nine touchdowns during the 49ers' NFC Championship season in 2012.

Michael Crabtree Career Stats
YearGRec.YardsAvg.TDPFF Rank*
2009114862513.0244
2010165574113.5673
2011157287412.1415
201216851,10513.094
201351928414.91DNQ
2014166869810.3495
*Per Pro Football Focus

In fact, he hasn't had that many receiving yards (or touchdowns) in the two seasons since, and last year's mark of 10.3 yards per catch was a career low for the former Biletnikoff Award winner.

Among 110 qualifying wide receivers at Pro Football Focus in 2014, Crabtree checked in at a robust 95th.

However, it's not as if there was no explanation for that drop-off in production. Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon in the spring of 2013 and wound up missing 11 games that year. He then got healthy just in time to watch quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco passing game implode last season.

To be frank, if the Raiders are chasing after Crabtree circa 2012, they're going to be disappointed. The foot problems that have plagued him dating all the way back to his time with the Red Raiders in college have sapped some of his explosiveness.

However, Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Matt Bowen wrote recently that he feels Crabtree still brings something to the table as an underneath receiver:

With any player who has suffered a serious injury, like the Achilles for Crabtree, there is always hope that the explosive power and acceleration come back in time. Similar to an ACL injury, it can take longer than a calendar year for a player to regain that same burst on the field.

This could happen with Crabtree. He could also be re-energized by a new team with a new playbook and a more distinct offensive identity than what the 49ers had this past season.

But if that doesn't happen, the tape shows that the best fit for Crabtree would be as a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver, ideally on a team that already has legit vertical speed at receiver.

Whether the Raiders have that vertical threat at receiver is debatable (to be kind). What isn't debatable is that no team in the NFL this side of Cleveland has a bigger hole at the position than Oakland.

You could even call it a Black Hole.

Oakland Raiders' WR Depth Chart (Pre-Crabtree)
1st String2nd String3rd String
LWRJames JonesKenbrell ThompkinsJeremy Gallon
RWRRod StreaterAndre HolmesBrice Butler
Per Ourlads

I'll be here all week, folks. Don't forget to tip your server.

Outside of veteran James Jones, the cupboard is bare at wide receiver in Oakland. Depending on Crabtree's health, an argument can be made that he'll become the Raiders' top option at the position from Day 1.

And if the team wants second-year quarterback Derek Carr to improve in 2015, it would behoove the Raiders to get him some players to throw the ball to.

I hear that helps.

Mind you, this hardly means Oakland's receiving problems are solved. The team will look to this year's (once again) loaded class of rookie wide receivers early in the 2015 draft.

There's also no assurance that Crabtree will succeed in Oakland. Attitude has been an issue with him since the day he entered the NFL. The condition of his wheels is another. 

However, given the one-year contract, the Raiders don't have anything to lose. Cap space certainly isn't a problem; according to Spotrac, the team has over $27 million in wiggle room.

Adding targets for Carr absolutely was an issue for the Raiders though, and if Michael Crabtree can come anywhere close to recapturing old glories in his new home...

The Raiders will have gone a long way toward addressing that.

Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter at @IDPManor.

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