Rod Woodson

This Date In Transactions History: Ravens Sign Rod Woodson

By the late 1990s, Rod Woodson went from perennial All-Pro as a Steeler to 49ers cap casualty. The Hall of Fame defender began a memorable second act on this date 23 years ago.

The Ravens swooped in and signed Woodson on Feb. 20, 1998, landing the then-11-year veteran cornerback on a four-year, $11.5MM deal that came with a $3MM signing bonus. Woodson would soon become a critical piece of one of the NFL’s all-time great defenses.

A year earlier, Woodson became a free agent and signed with the 49ers. San Francisco added both Woodson and fellow ex-Steeler Kevin Greene for the 1997 season. The 49ers led the league in total defense and secured the NFC’s No. 1 seed that year; they lost to the Packers in the conference championship game. Both players became cap casualties on the same day in 1998. Shortly after Woodson’s Ravens agreement, Greene re-signed with the Panthers.

Baltimore used Woodson as a cornerback in 1998, but in one of the best position-change decisions in modern NFL history, the five-time All-Pro corner moved to safety a year later. This shift coincided with the Ravens’ defensive ascent. After ranking 22nd in total defense in a 6-10 1998 season, Baltimore ranked second in ’99 — an 8-8 slate. Woodson led the NFL with seven interceptions and returned two for touchdowns in his first season as a safety. That began a run of four straight Pro Bowls for the veteran, who would go on to become an 11-time Pro Bowler.

In 2000, the Ravens elevated their performance considerably. Woodson, then 35, started 16 games for a defense that allowed just 10.3 points per game — the fewest in the 16-game era, breaking the 1986 Bears’ previous mark (11.7) — and lifted the team to a 12-4 record and Super Bowl XXXV championship. The Ravens blended a mix of homegrown young talent — headed by Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware and Chris McAllister — with veterans to assemble that storied defense, with Woodson spearheading the latter contingent. He finished the 2000 season with four picks and 77 tackles.

The Ravens held onto Woodson through the 2001 season. He signed with the Raiders in 2002 and played a pivotal role in that team advancing to the Super Bowl, leading the NFL with eight INTs. Woodson wrapped his 17-year career after the 2003 season and became a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2009.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Notes: Gruden, Bennett, Cable

On Friday, the Raiders announced the hiring of Rams quarterbacks coach Greg Olson as the team’s offensive coordinator. The 31-year NFL veteran coach, and Raiders offensive coordinator from 2013-14, won’t have to worry about calling plays. That duty instead will go to new head coach Jon GrudenBen Volin of the Boston Globe notes.

Gruden, who hasn’t coached in the NFL in nine seasons, has been preparing for the moment he would return to the sidelines for some time. He reportedly spends countless hours studying NFL and college plays and is expected to work closely with Derek Carr and the other Raiders quarterbacks.

Though he spurned advances for a role with Gruden, former quarterback Rich Gannon has full confidence that the former Super Bowl-winning coach won’t skip a beat.

“Jon has a system where he’s really going to count on the quarterback to be a big decision maker. He’s going to have a lot more flexibility and freedom at the line of scrimmage to change protections, to change plays. It’s going to be a fun offense to watch. He’s got a quarterback that can do it. That’s a big reason why he decided to come back.”

From the sounds of it, Carr will have more responsibility than ever before as he hopes to rebound from a disappointing 2017.

Here is more news from Oakland:

  • Gruden interviewed one person for the vacant offensive line coach position and had another meeting set up for Monday but dropped everything once the Seahawks fired Tom Cable, The Athletic’s Vic Tafur reports (Twitter link). After being fired as head coach in Oakland in 2010, Cable moved to Seattle and served as offensive line coach for seven seasons. Under his direction, Seattle established itself as one of the best running teams in NFL. His return could reunite him with Marshawn Lynch, should the Raiders retain the veteran back.
  • The Raiders continued to clean house on former head coach Jack Del Rio‘s staff, reports ESPN’s Adam Caplan (Twitter link). Among the expected departures are cornerbacks coach Rod Woodson, running backs coach Bernie Parmalee, assistant special teams coach Tracy Smith, wide receivers coach Rob Moore and safeties coach Brett Vieselmeyer.
  • Former Packers offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett didn’t have to wait long to find a new gig. He will be joining the Raiders as the team’s new receivers coach, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports (Twitter link). A former Packers running back, Bennett has spent 23 of his 25 seasons in the league as a player and coach in Green Bay.

West Notes: Cardinals, Joeckel, Raiders

Let’s take a quick swing around the league’s west divisions:

  • We learned earlier today that Tony Jefferson‘s new deal with the Ravens will pay him up to $37MM over four years. We also heard reports in recent days that the Browns and possibly the Jets offered him slightly more money, but that he spurned those offers to sign with Baltimore. As Andy Benoit of TheMMQB writes in a detailed piece on Jefferson’s free agent journey, Jefferson’s former team, the Cardinals, made him an initial “low-ball” offer of three years, $12MM, before upping their proposal to four years and $24MM, still well short of the winning bid.
  • Mike Jurecki of FoxSports910 passes along some contract details on two of the Cardinals‘ recent signings (Twitter links). Jurecki reports that safety Antoine Bethea‘s new three-year deal will pay him yearly base salaries of $2MM, $3MM, and $3MM, while A.Q. Shipley‘s new two-year pact is worth a total of $3.5MM with base salaries of $775K and $1.5MM, $725K in guarantees, and $250K in roster bonuses for 2017 and 2018.
  • Luke Joeckel‘s new one-year deal with the Seahawks will pay him a fully-guaranteed $7MM, with an additional $1MM available in per-game roster bonuses (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of USA Today).
  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets that Robbie Gould‘s new two-year pact with the 49ers is worth a total of $4MM, with $1MM fully guaranteed.
  • The Raiders will likely not have a lease agreement for a proposed Las Vegas stadium in place before the league owners meet later this month, a meeting during which they could approve the team’s relocation bid. However, as noted in a piece from the Associated Press, the absence of a finalized lease agreement does not mean the league owners will be precluded from voting on the relocation proposal. Instead, they could conditionally approve the relocation as long as the lease adequately addresses issues that are important to the league.
  • The Raiders have made a few changes to their coaching staff, as Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com writes. Last season’s assistant secondary coach, Rod Woodson, will coach cornerbacks, as he did previously, and Brent Vieselmeyer, who was assistant linebackers coach last year, will coach the safeties in 2017. Meanwhile, Travis Smith has been promoted from quality control to outside linebackers coach, and Nick Holz is now the assistant receivers coach. Nate Tice, son of offensive line coach Mike Tice, is the offensive quality control coach.
  • We learned earlier today that the Broncos and OT Donald Stephenson have agreed to a restructured deal.

Extra Points: Bradford, Mariota, Manning

Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link) hears from executives that some quarterback-needy teams in position to potentially have a shot at drafting Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston would actually prefer to roll the dice on former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford, if the Rams decide to release him. Of course, that may end up being a moot point, since St. Louis has expressed interest in bringing back Bradford, assuming he’s willing to restructure his contract. More from around the NFL..

  • Within that same video, Cole suggests that Ravens linebacker Pernell McPhee is likely to hit the open market next month, since the club views him as a complementary player rather than a core piece, and will want to use its available cap room elsewhere.
  • Peyton Manning is back home in New Orleans and training with the intent to play the 2015 NFL season, a source close to the quarterback told Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune. Manning wants to talk with Broncos executive vice president and general manager John Elway before announcing his intentions for the 2015 season and hopes to chat with him in the next couple of days. Manning, 39 in March, is the NFL’s oldest starting quarterback.
  • Mike Preston of The Baltimore Sun says the Ravens should pick a top cornerback in the draft. The top four cornerbacks right now appear to be Michigan State’s Trae Waynes, Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson, Washington’s Marcus Peters, and LSU’s Jason Collins.
  • While it appears that the previously reported changes to the Packers‘ coaching staff will indeed happen, the team has yet to formally finalize those moves, writes Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.
  • The Dolphins may not be in talks yet with quarterback Ryan Tannehill on a long-term contract extension, but one could certainly be in the cards. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald explored what a deal for the signal-caller might look like.
  • The Raiders announced that they have hired Rod Woodson as an assistant defensive backs coach, according to Bill Williamson of ESPN.com (on Twitter). That means that defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson is the lone holdover from the 2014 staff.