While we have on a couple of occasions lauded the Raiders for locking up Michael Crabtree on what appears to be pretty reasonable contract midway through last season, Pro Football Focus has a different perspective. They see Crabtree’s contract as one of the worst in the league among wide receivers.
Usually these conclusions are made by PFF when they do the math between how much the player makes in relation to their grades on him. For Crabtree, he signed a 4-year, $34 million deal which guarantees him $11 million this upcoming season as the team’s number two wide receiver. PFF had this to say about that.
$11 million is a big number for most wide receivers, but especially one that failed to grade positively in six of the last seven games last year, wherein he dropped five passes and fumbled once. The silver lining in this contract is that the deal contains no dead money after 2016—the mark of a player signing with a team which has a surplus of cash on hand. If Crabtree struggles, he can be released relatively easily in subsequent offseasons. The problem is that if he stays in Oakland, he’ll have to play consistently at or around what has been his career peak to justify the numbers in his contract moving forward, a scenario that seems unlikely given his age (28) and injury history.
They make a good point and those times that we have said positive things about Crabtree’s deal have been in reference to the fact that the Raiders absolutely needed to ensure they had two starting receivers, making Crabtree all the more valuable to them.
His value has to also be weighed against what he would have received on the open market. After the Bears put the franchise tag on Alshon Jeffery, the market was nearly bare. There wasn’t a single number one receiver to be had, which would have meant someone was going to overpay for Crabtree’s services, and likely more than the $8.5 million per season the Raiders gave him.
If you need proof of that, look at Allen Hurns who just signed a 4-year, $40 million extension with the Jaguars including $20 million guaranteed. That deal is worth up to $11 million per season with escalators. That’s not to say he isn’t worth it. But it shows you the kinds of contracts being handed out to receivers this offseason.
The entire PFF top five looked like this:
1. Demaryius Thomas ($14.2 million)
2. Dez Bryant ($15.75 million)
3. Vincent Jackson ($12.21 million)
4. Michael Crabtree ($8.5 million)
5. Larry Fitzgerald ($15.85 million)
A quick look at this list is like a “one of these things is not like the others” situation. Crabtree is making nearly half of what Dez Bryant and Larry Fitzgerald are making. And, as PFF pointed out, if Crabtree doesn’t pan out, he can be cut after this season with no dead money.
PFF could be right that Crabtree would need to put up career numbers each season to live up to his deal. But that doesn’t mean he won’t. He has said he is happier now than he’s ever been in his career. If the Raiders could even get a couple career years out of him, they’d be pretty happy as well. If not, well, they had plenty of money to spend to give it a shot.