With a checkered past and inconsistent production, Michael Crabtree came to the Raiders on a one-year, $3 million deal in hopes of re-establishing his worth and cashing in a year later. It turned out it didn't even take 16 games to prove his point, as the Raiders rewarded Crabtree with a $35 million deal over four years in December.
Now, almost three months after the extension and nearly twelve months after the initial contract was signed, that deal looks like more and more of an amazing deal for one simple reason: there just aren't any wide receivers out there.
When Oakland locked up Crabtree, there was no competition — just Crabtree and the team hashing it out behind closed doors. Just imagine what kind of deal he could have secured on the open market today — especially in the face of what appears to be one of the worst batches of rookie receivers in years.
When Alshon Jeffery received the franchise tag from the Bears, that left WalterFootball.com's free agent receiver rankings with these names atop their list: Marvin Jones, Travis Benjamin, Kamar Aiken and Reuben Randle. Crabtree isn't an "elite" wide receiver, but he surely would have been the top name on that list — which may have made for a payday much bigger than four-years, $35 million.
Then there's the group of receivers in the NFL Draft. If you watched any of the coverage while receivers were working out, it was almost as if these guys were killing Mike Mayock on live television with their disappointing performances. Sure there are some decent options out there, but no one that is screaming to be drafted in the top 10 — even 20 — as a can't miss talent.
Once again, for a team desperate for receiving help, there's not much to be found.
What Crabtree would be worth on the open market today is tough to say, but with the expanded salary cap (and all the teams with extra money to spend), would it be difficult to imagine him securing a deal closer to the 5-year, $55 million one Jeremy Maclin signed last offseason? Not for me.
What makes this all the sweeter looking back now, it inspires confidence to assume that this was a scenario that McKenzie and Co. anticipated, and one they were happy to avoid in December. And with Crabtree and Amari Cooper both locked up for the next four years, it will allow the team to focus their eyes elsewhere as they dream about how to spend their near $70 million this spring.