Tracy Porter is only 27 years old, yet it seems as if he’s been around the NFL for a decade.
Since being taken in the second round of the draft in 2008 by the New Orleans Saints, the cornerback has been in the spotlight for the big plays he made in helping the Saints win a Super Bowl, fallen from favor in New Orleans and then bounced to the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders over the past two seasons.
No longer is Porter the up-and-comer, but a veteran journeyman looking for an opportunity to play and prove himself.
Now that his one-year deal is up in Oakland, however, it’s clear that Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen need to re-sign Porter – along with several other Raiders now entering unrestricted free agency.
Porter was a durable, dependable and physical corner who had two interceptions – one returned for a TD – 13 passes defensed, 67 tackles and 1½ sacks.
As Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com recently noted, Porter was one of the bright spots on a defense that didn’t have that many by the end of the season.
“Could make a good argument that he was the defense’s best player from start to finish, definitely its best cornerback in moving into the slot in nickel situations,” Gutierrez wrote.
Porter, who signed with the Raiders after an unsuccessful stint in Denver, needed to establish himself again, and did.
Now, he is one of seven starters on defense scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.
Late in the season, he told the media that he’d be open to staying in Oakland.
“I’m not saying I don’t want to come back,” Porter said in late December. “I would. Otherwise I wouldn’t have come here from the start.”
Aside from Porter, the Raiders have 17 other unrestricted free agents. The Raiders are expected to pass on many of them, including longtime Raiders such as running back Darren McFadden and wideout Jacoby Ford.
But Porter is one of a handful the Raiders should retain, including (in order of importance): left tackle Jared Veldheer, defensive end Lamarr Houston, safety Charles Woodson, defensive tackles Vance Walker and Pat Sims and cornerback Mike Jenkins.
Retaining Porter, who proved again that he could be a solid NFL corner this season, would give the Raiders a re-proven commodity going forward.
And, Allen – who also coached Porter in Denver and New Orleans – believes in him.
“Tracy’s a guy who’s made a lot of big plays in a lot of big games,” Allen said. “A lot of guys we brought in here kind of have a little chip on their shoulders. They want to prove they’re worthy of being top-notch players in this league.”
That was mission accomplished for Porter in 2013.