It’s a done deal. The Cardinals have, at long last, signed veteran wide receiver Michael Crabtree, per an official team announcement. Crabtree nearly signed with Arizona earlier this month, but the pact was called off at the last minute.
During their prior round of negotiations with Crabtree, the Cardinals reportedly offered Crabtree a one-year deal with a $2.5MM base value. That contract also contained performance-based incentives that could have increased its total value to $4.5MM. Crabtree, who earned $8MM during his 2018 campaign with the Ravens, was “taken aback” by the offer. Arizona later increased its proposal, tweets Vic Tafur of the Athletic.
The Cardinals were in search of wideout help two weeks ago when discussing a deal with Crabtree, and subsequent events have only further elucidated Arizona’s need for another pass-catcher. Fourth-round rookie Hakeem Butler struggled during training camp and could miss the 2019 season after fracturing his hand, while free agent addition Kevin White was released earlier today.
New Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury is expected to deploy “10” personnel — 1 running back, zero tight ends, four wide receivers — as his primary offensive package. Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk are locks to start in that formation, leaving Crabtree to compete with rookies Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson for time as Arizona’s third or fourth receiver.
Crabtree will bring a veteran presence to a young Cardinals locker room, but Arizona will hope he can produce better offensive results than he did with the Ravens in 2018. Crabtree, 34, posted only 54 receptions on 100 targets with Baltimore, the lowest catcher percentage of his career, and scored just three touchdowns, the fewest he’s managed in a full season during his NFL tenure.
Advanced metrics didn’t paint a rosier picture of Crabtree’s 2018 campaign. Among the 43 wideouts who received at least 83 targets last season, Crabtree ranked 42nd in Pro Football Focus‘ yards per route run, ahead of only Buffalo’s Zay Jones. Meanwhile, Crabtree ranked 74th among 84 qualifers in Football Outsiders‘ DYAR and 75th in DVOA, both of which measure value over an average replacement player.
While Crabtree didn’t exactly light on the world on fire with Joe Flacco under center, his production dwindled when run-first Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson entering the starting lineup. With Flacco starting in Baltimore’s first nine games, Crabtree averaged 8.4 targets, 4.6 receptions, 52.4 yards, and 0.2 touchdowns per game. When Jackson took over for the club’s final seven contests, Crabtree dropped to a 3.4/1.9/19.3/0.1 line.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.