Michael Crabtree

Cardinals Release Michael Crabtree

The on-again, off-again saga between the Cardinals and Michael Crabtree is off. Again. On Monday, the Cardinals announced the release of the veteran wide receiver. 

Crabtree’s run in red lasted just three games and two appearances (he was inactive Week 1 against the Lions). Initially, he was set to be a veteran security blanket for Kyler Murray, but he never synced with the offense. Meanwhile, Damiere Byrd and KeeSean Johnson have stepped up their respective games.

The Cardinals can probably stand pat at WR since they had seven receivers active for their loss against the Panthers. Still, they’ll lose out on some cash here as Crabtree’s $500K signing bonus and $1.75MM salary were both locked in.

Crabtree, 32, posted just 54 receptions off of 100 targets with Baltimore last year. He’s still looking to reprise his best work from previous years, including his 1,000-yard season with the Raiders in 2016.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Falcons, Vikings, Crabtree

The Falcons had one of the most stable kicking situations in the league until this year. Matt Bryant had been the team’s kicker for the past ten seasons before they finally decided to move on and cut him back in February. The team had Giorgio Tavecchio all set to replace him, but Tavecchio has faltered during the preseason. In response, Atlanta went out and signed Blair Walsh to provide some competition for him. Now we’ve learned Walsh wasn’t the only kicker they kicked the tires on.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said the team discussed bringing Bryant back before ultimately going with Walsh, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). In a separate tweet, Ledbetter notes that Quinn said it will be an open competition now between Tavecchio and Walsh. Bryant has kicked in the league since 2002, but the 44-year-old has been unable to find a new gig. He made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and was usually a reliable option, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Falcons reach back out midseason if whoever they roll with to start the year slips up.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • Speaking of kicking controversies, it sounds like the Vikings might have one on their hands. Minnesota traded a fifth-round pick to the Ravens for Kaare Vedvik, seemingly putting the issue to rest. Vedvik then missed his first two field goal attempts as a Viking in their most recent preseason game, prompting head coach Mike Zimmer to say he has a “high” level of concern about the position, per Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com. “I honestly don’t know” what the team will do now, Zimmer said. “Since we brought Vedvik in, Wile has been punting good and Bailey has been kicking good, and then Vedvik goes out there and misses field goals. I don’t know. I’m at a loss on that.” Vedvik was initially expected to handle both punting and kicking duties, and now it sounds like he might not even make the team. Dan Bailey seemed like he was soon to be out of a job last week, but he’s been given new life now. This will be a situation to monitor during the team’s fourth and final preseason game.
  • The Cardinals signed receiver Michael Crabtree a few days ago, and now we have the details on his contract. Crabtree got a one-year deal worth $3.25MM that can be upped to $5.5MM if he hits incentives, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Crabtree originally visited with the Cards weeks ago, but a potential deal was called off over a disagreement about compensation. Arizona reportedly offered him a one-year, $2.5MM deal the first time around, so they upped their offer by $750K in base value.
  • In case you missed it, Lions starting linebacker Jarrad Davis will miss some regular season time with a high ankle sprain.

Cardinals Sign Michael Crabtree

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.

Cards, Michael Crabtree Far Apart On Terms

Despite an impressive workout for the Cardinals, Michael Crabtree remains a free agent. The report of his deal turned out to be premature, and we now know why the 31-year-old wide receiver is not a member of the Cards a day later.

At the conclusion of Crabtree’s Monday workout, the Cardinals made what the veteran wideout appears to have deemed a stunning offer. The Cards proposed a one-year, $2.5MM contract to Crabtree, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. While that deal could have escalated to $4.5MM based on performance, Crabtree was “taken aback” when he received the offer, per Florio.

Crabtree expected an offer along the lines of the ones the Cowboys and Lions, respectively, made Randall Cobb (one year, $5MM) and Danny Amendola (one year, $4.25MM), Florio adds, given that those veteran pass catchers produced less than he did in 2018. The parties did not discuss a deal prior to Crabtree’s workout.

The Ravens’ Joe Flacco-to-Lamar Jackson switch restrained Crabtree (607 receiving yards last season) and John Brown, with the former averaging only 19.2 receiving yards per game with Jackson at the controls. But Brown signed for three years and $27MM, with $11.6MM in guarantees. At this juncture of the NFL calendar, free agents are often forced to settle on price. Crabtree’s most recent contract — a three-year, $21MM Ravens pact with the Ravens — occurred last March.

Kliff Kingsbury remains receptive to a Crabtree partnership, telling AZCardinals.com’s Darren Urban “anything can happen” (Twitter link). That doesn’t sound particularly promising regarding a Crabtree-to-Arizona path, especially considering the Cardinals drafted three wide receivers to join a team already housing Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. But the Crabtree workout marked the first news about the former 49ers, Raiders and Ravens wideout since his Baltimore release.

Additionally, former Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams took part in the same workout Crabtree did, per Florio. So did Akron alum Kwadarrius Smith.

Cardinals, Michael Crabtree Call Off Deal

Michael Crabtree won’t be joining the Cardinals after all. Just hours after word of an agreement leaked, negotiations between the two parties went bust, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. With that, the wide receiver remains on the free agent market. 

Crabtree was a logical fit for the Cardinals, who are looking for athletic wide receivers to work with new quarterback Kyler Murray. There was also a Texas Tech tie-in – both Kliff Kingsbury and Crabtree are alums of the Red Raiders and played under head coach Mike Leach. Despite the potential conversations with campus nostalgia and their shared understanding of Leach’s offensive principles, the deal fell apart.

Crabtree, 31, played all 16 games for the Ravens last season and finished out with 54 catches for 607 yards and two scores. It was his weakest stat line ever, but he was healthy and showed that he can still ball.

Right now, it doesn’t sound like the Cardinals will be circling back to Crabtree. The team has no plans to sign him, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals To Sign Michael Crabtree

The Cardinals will add another veteran to their receiving corps. Michael Crabtree intends to sign with the team, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports (on Twitter). This comes after Crabtree worked out for the Cardinals on Monday.

Other than Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals have one of the youngest receiving groups in the NFL. They employ second-year man Christian Kirk and three draft choices as key components of Kliff Kingsbury‘s first aerial group. The team guided by the former Texas Tech coach will add a former Texas Tech star. Although Kingsbury and Crabtree’s Lubbock, Texas, tenures did not overlap, the 11th-year receiver is obviously a notable addition. Crabtree did play under Mike Leach at Texas Tech, doing so after Leach had coached Kingsbury a few years prior.

Oddly, next to nothing transpired on the Crabtree front this offseason. The Ravens released Crabtree in late February; this is the first piece of news involving the 31-year-old pass catcher since. And with the Cards having re-signed Fitzgerald and invested three draft choices in wideouts this year, to go along with 2018 second-rounder Kirk, this makes for an interesting landing spot.

Crabtree spent only one season in Baltimore, hauling in 54 passes for 607 yards and three touchdowns. However, the veteran was on pace for a better 2018 showing had Joe Flacco remained as the team’s quarterback. Both Crabtree and John Brown‘s numbers took a hit when Lamar Jackson (and a new run-heavy offense) took over. Crabtree posted five 50-plus-yard games in the Ravens’ Flacco setup and zero under Jackson.

The former 49ers draft choice surpassed 900 yards for the 2015 and ’16 Raiders. Crabtree’s best year came in 2012, when he posted 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns in San Francisco. While Crabtree may be a bit past his prime, he still represents an interesting piece for Kingsbury’s first NFL offense.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.