Over the final two games of 2017, the Raiders’ Michael Crabtree became the invisible receiver.
The same wide receiver who had six touchdown catches in Oakland’s first six games was targeted just twice in the season finale against the Chargers and three times against the Eagles the week before. Over his final two weeks Crabtree caught just two passes for 17 yards.
Now there is speculation that Crabtree may follow fired head coach Jack Del Rio out the door.
Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on Dec. 30 that the Raiders are expected to release the veteran wideout, who turned 30 in September. Crabtree is owed $7 million in 2018 and Gehlken reported the team is intent on "parting with a player whose production is not considered worth the baggage."
Crabtree always has been a productive pass catcher, but he also was jettisoned by the 49ers after the 2014 season.
Crabtree’s career was reborn in Oakland, where he made an immediate impact and formed a great connection with quarterback Derek Carr. In 2015, Crabtree had 85 catches for 922 yards and nine TDs. In 2016 he had 89 catches for 1,003 yards and eight TDs. In 2017 he was targeted 44 fewer times than the previous season and had 58 catches for 618 yards and eight scores.
Crabtree was unhappy about how this season ended. He played just 17 of a possible 54 snaps in the season-ending loss to the Chargers and played less than half of all offensive snaps against the Eagles on Christmas Day.
When he was asked if he was frustrated after the Chargers game, he acknowledged he was.
"Yeah, I mean, because if I react then I’m a bad guy," Crabtree told Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle. "They’ll ask, ‘Why isn’t he on the field?’ You have to ask the coach that. I do everything I’m supposed to do. I play 60 minutes every time we play. Game winners after game winners. I did everything they asked of me these last two gmes and I’ve probably had three targets. Nobody’s saying anything about that, but it’s all good. Like I said, I’m going to keep working hard and be me."
The Raiders need to provide good receivers for Carr, who struggled in 2017, and it seems odd to let a proven wide receiver such as Crabtree go. Crabtree has proven time and again he can make tough, end-of-game catches and be a reliable red-zone receiver. Yet there apparently is dissatisfaction within the organization with his worth, compared with his salary.
It’s just one more question mark hanging over the team as it heads into the offseason.