Michael Crabtree

Revisiting The 2018 Free Agent WR Class

The 2018 free agent class of wide receivers reshaped the market in a number of ways and set the table for lucrative extensions for players like Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, and Stefon Diggs. But even allowing for the premium that teams often have to pay in the first wave of free agency, the size of the contracts that the 2018 FA wideouts landed raised a lot of eyebrows throughout the league. As we look ahead to Year 2 of some of those contracts, let’s examine the early returns.

Sammy Watkins‘ three-year, $48MM deal with the Chiefs topped the class in terms of total value, average annual value, and guaranteed money at signing ($30MM). And while his talent certainly merited that type of payday, his injury history was a concern, as he had missed 10 games over the prior three seasons. He ended up missing six games during his first year in Kansas City due to a foot injury, though he did manage to suit up for both of the club’s postseason contests. His raw numbers obviously don’t look too impressive as a result of the missed time, but he did rank fifth among all qualified wideouts in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, meaning he was very valuable on a per-play basis. He also tallied 10 catches for 176 yards during the Chiefs’ two playoff games, and while injury problems may always plague him, he continues to be a factor whenever he’s on the field. KC is likely not regretting Watkins’ deal at this point.

The Bears doubled up at wide receiver by signing Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel last March, which allowed them to part ways with Cameron Meredith. Chicago brought in Robinson on a three-year, $42MM pact, even though he suffered a torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2017 season and had only posted one elite season in his career (which came back in 2015). And after his first year with the Bears, Robinson is still looking for his second 1,000-yard campaign.

There is some reason to hope that he can get there, especially with a fully-healthy offseason and a year of building chemistry with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky under his belt. A-Rob played in just 13 regular season games last season but was targeted 94 times, and he was brilliant in the Bears’ lone playoff game, posting 10 catches for 143 yards and a score. Football Outsiders’ metrics didn’t love him, but Pro Football Focus assigned him an above-average grade that made him the 28th-best WR in the league. He may not have quite lived up to expectations, but there is still time for him to get there.

Chicago signed Gabriel to a four-year, $26MM deal in the hopes that he could become a big-play threat for Trubisky. But while Gabriel played in all 16 games for the club and saw 93 targets, he managed a fairly modest 10.3 yards-per-reception and two touchdowns. Advanced metrics weren’t overly fond of his work either, and he will be hoping for a bounce-back year in 2019.

It’s still too early to evaluate some of the other significant contracts given to 2018 wide receivers, because the signees saw their seasons derailed by injury. Marqise Lee, who re-upped with the Jaguars on a four-year, $34MM deal, missed the entire 2018 season due to a preseason knee injury, and he is not expected to be back until the end of this year’s training camp. The Dolphins were thinking highly of their three-year, $24MM accord with Albert Wilson, who was performing well for Miami until he landed on IR in October with a serious hip injury. He is expected to be ready for the start of the 2019 regular season, but he may not see the field until then.

Likewise, Paul Richardson showed flashes in the first year of the five-year, $40MM contract he signed with the Redskins last March, but he landed on IR in November with a shoulder injury.

But at least the aforementioned players are still on their respective teams. Michael Crabtree signed a three-year, $21MM deal with the Ravens after being cut by the Raiders, but he disappeared from Baltimore’s offense when Lamar Jackson became the starter, and Baltimore sent him packing in February (as of this writing, there has been no reported interest in his services). And Donte Moncrief signed a one-year contract for a surprising $9.6MM with the Jaguars, but his mostly disappointing performance in Jacksonville had him searching for a new team this offseason. He ultimately caught on with the Steelers.

All in all, then, the 2018 class of free agent wideouts was a mixed bag. None of the contracts those players signed look like a home run at this point, and while that could change in 2019, those who were surprised by the amount of money thrown at WRs last March were right to be a little skeptical.

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Ravens To Release WR Michael Crabtree

The Ravens informed wide receiver Michael Crabtree that he is being released, a source tells ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Crabtree will hit the open market again, just one year after signing a three-year, $21MM free agent deal with the Ravens last year. 

Crabtree didn’t live up to expectations in his first season with Baltimore and finished out with just 54 catches for 607 yards and three touchdowns. He connected with Joe Flacco at times, but his production fell off once Lamar Jackson took over as the team’s starting QB.

Without Crabtree on the roster, the Ravens will save $4.667MM against the 2019 cap. However, they’ll also carry an equivalent dead money hit.

Crabtree will turn 32 in September, so it’s unlikely that he’ll see similar money on his next deal given his so-so stat line and age. He had similar catch and yardage numbers with the Raiders in ’17, but those stats were buoyed by eight touchdown receptions.

On the plus side, this year’s free agent wide receiver crop is softer than in years past. This year’s class is headlined by the likes of Golden Tate, Jamison Crowder, and Tyrell Williams.

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AFC Contract Details: Crabtree, Williamson

Here are figures on some of the recent contracts signed around the NFL, with all links going to Twitter unless noted otherwise.

Ravens Notes: Crabtree, Ryan Grant, Free Agency

Baltimore made a big splash in free agency on Friday, signing veteran receiver Michael Crabtree a day after his release from the Raiders. The move potentially gives the team a go-to, possession receiver that it hasn’t had in a number of years.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said as much after the completion of the three-year deal worth up to $21MM. According to the Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec (Twitter link): “Michael has played very well against the Ravens, so we know firsthand the attributes he brings to the game. He is a smart, tough, physical receiver who battles for the ball.”

Newsome remembers well, as Crabtree has topped 80 yards in three out of four regular-season meetings with the Ravens and has posted five touchdowns. That included a three-score outing vs. the typically stingy defense in 2016.

Known for utilizing his big arm early in his career, quarterback Joe Flacco has worked closer to the line of scrimmage in recent years and has posted at least a 64% completion rate in each season in 2015. That is likely to continue with a reliable option like Crabtree joining the hold.

Here’s more from Baltimore:

  • Despite signing both John Brown and Crabtree, Newsome hasn’t ruled out a return to the fold for Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro, ESPN’s Jamison Hensley tweets. According to Hensley, the team has been in contact with both receivers.
  • Newsome said the team would have pursued Crabtree regardless if the team signed Ryan Grant or not,” Zrebiec tweets. The team voided a contract with the former Redskins wideout after he failed a physical.
  • Sticking with Grant, Newsome said via Zrebiec on Twitter: “I did not get the results of Ryan’s physical until about 4 o’clock yesterday.” He said the team consulted with many doctors around the country. “It’s not a football decision. It’s a medical decision that I had no control over.”
  • Before news of the Crabtree signing hit, Newsome said the team could add two or three more quality football players, Zrebiec tweets. Recently, Pro Football Rumors listed Baltimore’s top three offseason needs and named adding receiver help, beefing up the pass rush and fortifying the secondary as the team’s top goals. It checked No. 1 off the board with the Crabtree move.

Michael Crabtree Signs With Ravens

It didn’t take long for Michael Crabtree to find a new home. Just a day after being released by the Raiders, the veteran receiver reached an agreement on a three-year deal to join the Ravens, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets

The Ravens confirmed the deal in a followup, emoji-filled tweet moments later.

The deal is worth up to $21 MM and includes $11 MM in guaranteed money, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link).

After long speculation, the Raiders decided to cut the nine-year wideout on Friday after it inked Jordy Nelson to a deal. Shortly after the move, the Ravens set up a meeting and were reportedly going hard to sign Crabtree.

In three seasons with the Raiders, Crabtree recorded 232 catches for 2,543 yards and 25 touchdowns. Despite having a down season in 2017, the Texas Tech product still managed to lead Oakland with eight touchdown grabs.

The Ravens have been looking for a go-to wideout for a long time and the team is hoping Crabtree can fill that role. Only three Baltimore receivers, and none since Torrey Smith in 2014, have recorded eight receiving touchdowns in a season, the amount Crabtree has logged in every season since 2015.

The team has been looking to upgrade its receiving options so far in the 2018 offseason. It added a deep threat with the addition of former Cardinals wideout John Brown earlier in the week. The team also thought it had a deal with former Redskins pass catcher Ryan Grant, but the deal was voided after he failed his physical. It was also reported the team was in the mix for Jimmy Graham and Eric Ebron.

[RELATED: Ravens Depth Chart]

 

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WR Michael Crabtree To Visit Ravens

Michael Crabtree is making his first visit. The wideout is set to meet with the Ravens, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). The Ravens are “going hard” after the veteran, who was released by the Raiders today, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).

Following the Nelson signing, Oakland released Crabtree today. There had been whispers of Crabtree’s exit from Oakland for some time, although Jon Gruden seemed to indicate that Crabtree would be back with the team in 2018. Crabtree had been productive during his time with the Raiders, as he hauled in at least eight touchdowns in each of his three seasons. However, the 30-year-old’s production dropped in 2017, as he finished with 58 receptions and and 618 yards – his lowest totals since 2013.

Earlier today, our own Zach Links eyed Marqise Lee‘s new contract with the Jaguars as a basis for a Crabtree deal. Lee can earn a maximum of $38MM over the course of his four-year contract. Even if Crabtree’s “true” average annual value falls short of $9.5MM, it’s still a good indicator of what Crabtree can expect to get in free agency

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Raiders Release WR Michael Crabtree

The Raiders are releasing wide receiver Michael Crabtree, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). With Crabtree out of the picture, a source tells Schefter that there is a “high probability” of wide receiver Jordy Nelson landing in Oakland (UPDATE: Nelson has signed with the Raiders).

There have been whispers of Crabtree’s exit from Oakland for several months. At one point, Jon Gruden seemed to indicate that Crabtree would be back with the team in 2018. Such talk, apparently, was premature. The Raiders will move on from Crabtree’s $7MM salary and are likely to fill that void with Nelson.

Last season, Crabtree posted his worst season as a Raider, managing only 58 reception and 618 yards in 14 games. In January, his $7MM salary seemed a bit rich given his down year, but it’s not so crazy when compared to some of the free agent deals signed by other receivers this year.

Take Marqise Lee‘s new contract with the Jaguars, for example. He can earn a maximum of $38MM over the course of his four-year contract. Even if his “true” average annual value falls short of $9.5MM, it’s still a good indicator of what Crabtree can expect to get in free agency. On the other hand, many of this year’s wide receiver voids have already been filled.

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Latest On Michael Crabtree, Marshawn Lynch

Recent comments from Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie and coach Jon Gruden have indicated that running back Marshawn Lynch and wide receiver Michael Crabtree will be with the team in 2018. However, nothing has been decided on either front, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review Journal hears. Marshawn Lynch/Michael Crabtree (vertical)

From a talent perspective, both players would be worthwhile contributors for the Raiders. However, their salaries are an issue. Crabtree is scheduled to earn a $7MM salary with just over $1MM in potential incentives. Lynch, meanwhile, is on the books with a $4MM salary plus up to $4MM in bonuses. Those numbers don’t sit right with the team’s braintrust, which is now headed by new head coach Jon Gruden, and it could result in one or both of the players not being a part of the team this fall.

At minimum, we should get some clarity on Lynch’s situation soon. The veteran is due a $1MM roster bonus on March 18, so the Raiders will have to make a call before that date. With free agency getting underway on March 14, it would behoove Oakland to figure things out for both players in the next two weeks.

Last season, Crabtree posted his worst season as a Raider, managing only 58 reception and 618 yards in 14 games. Lynch, meanwhile, was excellent down the stretch (perhaps as he got into better condition): the 31-year-old averaged 5.17 yards per carry over Oakland’s final five games and scored twice.

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Raiders To Bring Back Michael Crabtree

The Raiders have decided to hold onto veteran receiver Michael Crabtree, a source told Vic Tafur of The Athletic. There were previous discussions about releasing the receiver, who is set to make $7.5 MM in salary and roster bonus in 2018. Michael Crabtree (vertical)

Tafur writes that Crabtree has met with new head coach Jon Gruden in the past month and have come to an agreement that his struggles in 2017 were related to the previous regime. The problems with Jack Del Rio‘s staff were obvious in the final two games of the season when Crabtree played just 46 of 121 snaps, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Michael Gehlken (Twitter link).

At the age of 30 in 2017, Crabtree logged just 58 receptions for 618 yards but did manage to register eight touchdown grabs. The campaign followed back-to-back 85-catch seasons in his first two seasons with the Raiders. The Texas Tech product has been a force in the red zone, logging 25 receiving scores in three seasons with the Silver and Black.

Though he did have a rough season, Crabtree is a strong bounce-back candidate in Gruden’s new-look attack that prioritizes quick-hitting passes to move the chains. Crabtree is signed through the 2019 season but will not count against the cap if released.

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Jon Gruden On Crabtree, Lynch, Cable

With a non-guaranteed $7.7MM salary, Michael Crabtree is among this year’s potential high-profile salary cap casualties. However, in a recent interview, Raiders coach Jon Gruden indicated that Crabtree is a part of the team’s plans. Michael Crabtree (vertical)

I got to bump into Crabtree. Hopefully we can get the best out of Crabtree and his career,” Gruden told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group.

Crabtree, 31 in September, turned in the weakest numbers he’s had in a healthy season since 2010. His 58 catches for 618 yards and eight touchdowns is nothing to sneeze at, but it was a drop-off from his 89 grabs for 1,003 yards and eight scores in 2016. Still, Gruden believes that he can get Crabtree back on track, which would make him worth his current contract. Alternatively, the Raiders could ask Crabtree to take a minor pay cut.

Here’s more from Gruden’s sit down with McDonald:

Do you think Marshawn Lynch will be on the roster this year?

I don’t know. I bumped into him. Some of these players that live locally do come to the facility to get a workout, see the trainer. I’ve been downstairs and met several guys. I have talked to Marshawn briefly. We’ll see. We’ll keep everybody posted. Right now, he’s our leading ballcarrier. He’s our back, and we’re counting on him. Hopefully we get an opportunity to work together. that’s a man that has a lot of respect in this league as a player and I certainly have respect for him also.

What excites you about this roster?

I think we’ve got a great young quarterback. I think that’s enough to be excited about. I think a lot of our center. I think the quarteback-center (Rodney Hudson) battery is as good as I’ve ever had in football. I’m really excited about the two guards (Kelechi Osemele, Gabe Jackson), obviously. That’s the strength of this team. And Khalil Mack, I think he’s a proven superstar football player. I think the excitement around working with Amari Cooper is just certainly pretty cool. 

Does Tom Cable’s hiring mean the Raiders will be a zone-scheme team when it comes to running the ball?

No. I think Cable’s background is one of the outside zone, the inside zone, but he’s also a very versatile coach. He’s proven that. He can run gap schemes. He’s going to run what we’re good at running. If we have a good back, and some good linemen and a tight end and a fullback, we’ll have a good running game with Tom Cable. But we’ve got to get the components in place so he can be all he can be. That’s something we’re working on right now. He’s a versatile coach, certainly he’s an expert in the zone scheme and I’m excited about that, but there’s a lot of ways he’s run the ball in his background. 

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