For a while it looked like the NFL was throwing a free agent party and the Oakland Raiders invitation never arrived. For the first two days of the free agent signing period, the Raiders only watched their own players leave. That changed on Thursday when the team snatched up defensive lineman Justin Tuck and linebacker LaMarr Woodley.
During the first two days of the signing period, Raiders players were the ones collecting new contracts from other teams. Defensive lineman Lamarr Houston went first to the Chicago Bears. Then running back Rashad Jennings signed a 4-year $14 million deal with the New York Giants, and left tackle Jared Veldheer joined the Arizona Cardinals. Insult was added to injury when a player that Oakland thought they had picked up, offensive tackle Rodger Saffold, failed his physical and was sent back to the St. Louis Rams.
The only entry on the “plus” side of the Oakland ledger was the re-signing of often-injured running back Darren McFadden—a move that elicited a less-than-enthusiastic response from the Raider faithful. As a team, the Raiders had more cap room, $60 million, than any team in the league before the signing period began on Tuesday afternoon.
The Oakland Raiders finally arrived at the party in a big way today, picking up two free agents, Tuck and Woodley, who will make an immediate impact on their defense. One of them wears two Super Bowl rings; the other has logged seven years with the “Steel Curtain” defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Justin Tuck’s contract is for two years at $11 million. He is 30 years old and has 10 years experience in the NFL, all of them with the New York Giants who selected him in the third round of the draft in 2005. He has recorded 60.5 sacks in his career, including 11 last year. Tuck is sixth in Giants history in sacks and ranks 99th on the NFL’s all-time list. Speaking publicly as a Raider he seemed comfortable in a leadership role, talking of winning “more Super Bowls,” and pledging to recruit more players to the Oakland Raiders organization.
LaMarr Woodley was drafted by the Steelers in 2007 out of the University of Michigan, and had played his entire career in Pittsburgh. He is fifth on the all-time Steelers sack list with 57 in his career, adding 299 tackles during that time. A linebacker with Pittsburgh, some expect Woodley to play defensive end in the Raiders 4-3 scheme. Like Tuck, his contract with the Raiders is for two years. It is reported to be worth $12 million.
So now that the Oakland Raiders have arrived at the free agent party it remains to be seen if they will continue to partake of the festivities or head home early. There are still some big names out there, including Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who might be interested in the Raiders simply because he has a good chance of being their starter. Oakland has also expressed interest in Detroit tight end Brandon Pettigrew, Texans defensive end Antonio Smith, and Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback Brandon Browner. With $60 million in salary cap space, the Raiders could probably afford them all.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky