Prior to last season, many asked Charles Woodson if the 2014 season would be his last. And despite his protests, many believed the 38-year-old defensive back simply must be ready to hang them up. That he was already a first ballot Hall of Famer who had outlasted all expectations in playing 17 years of NFL football. He had not.
The first extension the Raiders gave out this offseason was to Woodson who last season led the team in tackles (111) and interceptions (4). But he will be 39-years-old in October. He can't really be thinking he'll play into his 40s, can he?
Let's for now go on the assumption that THIS -- his third season of his second stint with the team -- will indeed be his last. That means the Raiders must think about when they will begin preparing for life without him.
The wise decision would be for that process to begin immediately. Despite the fact that Woodson has somehow managed to not miss a single start over the past two seasons in Oakland, the lingering feeling that an injury or perhaps multiple injuries could happen which could end his career a few months before he or the Raiders had planned.
CWood may be iron man these days, but he had suffered two-straight collarbone breaks in his final seasons in Green Bay. At the age of 36 at the time, he had been moved to safety to prolong his career when he suffered the second break. The Packers decided Woodson was no longer a viable option for them.
Upon being released by the Packers, Woodson said he wanted to keep playing but that he wanted to sign with a contender. No contender stepped up with serious interest in his services. They too apparently thought he didn't have anything left to give.
That's when Woodson opened up to the idea of returning to the team who drafted him, where he spent the first 8 seasons of his career.
He signed a one-year deal with most thinking it would be a farewell tour. Then he was re-signed to another season. Now another one.
Preparing for his departure may be the wise plan, but it isn't nearly that simple. The Raiders again have a great many needs and holes to fill. Mainly because most of them were filled last off-season by aging vets who are only temporary fixes or weren't a fix at all.
Waiting until next year is a risk, but presumably there will be a few more drafted players and perhaps a young free agent or two added which will allow the team to focus on the safety position. Then again, it's hard to project a year out what the team will look like.
It's a quandary.
For now, the team does have Woodson in place. Though he played strong safety a good portion of last season in the absence of Tyvon Branch, the Raiders list Woodson exclusively as a free safety. Other safeties on the team include Tyvon Branch, Brandian Ross, Usama Young, Jonathan Dowling, and Larry Asante.