There is no question the Raiders wanted Jordy Nelson and weren’t going to let him get away. From the instant the word came down that he was to be released, they jumped into action and were full speed ahead until he had signed the dotted line.
It helped a great deal that the Raiders had something no one else had — Jordy Nelson’s offensive coordinator and former wide receivers coach all through his most successful seasons.
“We got the news from Green Bay on Tuesday,” said Nelson. It was news that came of great shock to him after the former 2nd round pick had spent his entire 10-year NFL career in Green Bay.
“Once that happened and the news broke, people started reaching out,” Nelson continued. “Obviously, I know Edgar Bennett who coaches here now from my years in Green Bay. He reached out right away. Him and Coach [Jon] Gruden were all over trying to get me out here as soon as possible. We were out here on a 6:30 a.m. flight the next day.”
That aggressive recruitment was key, but it wasn’t going to be enough. Nelson’s agent had lined up two more stops on his free agent tour with the Seahawks and Saints. Had the Raiders played this close to the vest, Nelson may have continued with his plans and weighed other options. The Raiders needed to bring out the big guns. Namely, the team’s big gun — Derek Carr.
“He was in the car when I got off the plane at the airport. Which was great,” Nelson said of his soon-to-be signal caller.
Carr has been known to head to the facility to spend some time with prospective free agents on visits to give them the sales pitch. Though I’m not sure how common it is for him to literally meet them at the airport. And especially for him to play tour guide and take them home to meet the family. But that’s just what he did with Jordy.
“We spent pretty much the whole day together,” Nelson continued. “In the building here. He was the one who drove me around some of the area. I was actually about to meet his wife and two boys. Get a feel for the area and obviously a feel for him. I knew a lot about him from James Jones who played here and Davante Adams who he played with at Fresno State. I knew a lot about him before I even came out here. It was great to get to know him a little bit more. I think it’s a great fit to be with him for the next couple of years.”
Having spent the better part of his decade in Green Bay catches passes from Aaron Rodgers, the temptation is to ask him how his former quarterback compares to his future quarterback, but Nelson wisely refrained from making that comparison, saying he would just let each be their own men. But so far as he enjoyed his years catching passes from Rodgers, things got off to a great start between he and Carr.
That night, Nelson had dinner with Raiders brass and stayed over in Oakland, returning to the facility in the morning to continue discussions.
Much of the recruitment included GM Reggie McKenzie who was Director of Player Personnel when the Packers drafted Nelson and through his first four seasons with the team. That kind of familiarity had to make his visit that much more welcoming. Why would he need to look anywhere else?
“The plan was to make some other trips, but you never know what’s going to happen,” said Nelson. “You get to a place and you enjoy it and they enjoy it.”
The financials were also to Nelson’s liking. The 32-year-old signed a 2-year deal that pays him an average $7.5 million per season with $13 million guaranteed. So, essentially he got Michael Crabtree’s deal, but with it almost entirely guaranteed. That’s great faith in what is likely to be Nelson’s last NFL contract.
Should Carr be able to find Nelson the way Rodgers always did, there’s every reason to think Nelson can return to the form he had prior to last season when Rodgers was injured the majority of the season and Brett Hundley was running the offense. That’s when Nelson was averaging around 1363 yards in his last three full seasons, including returning from a torn ACL to win 2016 comeback player of the year. That’s what he will look to rekindle in Oakland.
“Knowing some of the coaches, knowing a little bit about Derek, understanding the offense is something very similar. . . to what I had in Green Bay. I think will just allow this transition to be that much smoother and that’s what we need right now. We’re going to be on a tight window to be ready to go for offseason and into the season. Right now on a two-year deal, I need to go in, get going and make the most of it.”