When the Raiders signed wide receiver Michael Crabtree to a one-year, free-agent deal a year ago, it was seen by some as a pickup of a second-tier talent.
The former 49ers standout hadn’t been the same since a severe injury in 2013 and played just five games that season. In 2014, he often was an overlooked piece of the 49ers’ offense and his numbers – 68 catches for 698 yards and 10.3 yards per catch – weren’t close to the numbers he put up in his pre-injury 2012 season: 85 catches, 1,105 yards and 13 yards per reception.
But Crabtree proved his doubters wrong in 2015, resurrecting his career. And general manager Reggie McKenzie’s gamble on the 28-year-old wideout is likely to continue to pay large dividends for the Raiders offense in 2016 and beyond.
Crabtree caught 85 passes for 922 yards and a 10.8 average in 2015 and became part of a dynamic receiving duo with rookie Amari Cooper. Crabtree quickly gained trust and rapport with quarterback Derek Carr.
In December he signed a four-year contract extension with Oakland and said, “This is where I belong … I’m a Raider, man.”
The Raiders are likely to pick another wide receiver in the draft later this month to add to a corps that also includes Seth Roberts and Andre Holmes, but Crabtree is likely to continue to be a lead player. Plus, Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio says Crabtree in his first season in Oakland was a terrific mentor to younger receivers.
As Chris Wesseling of NFL.com wrote, Crabtree “has turned his career around.”
In 2015, Crabtree and Cooper were on track to both be 1,000-yard receivers but fell just short. They would have been the first pair or Raiders receivers with 1,000 or more yards in the same season since Jerry Rice and Tim Brown in 2001.
In 2016, it could happen. Carr certainly is excited to go into a second season having Crabtree on the field.
“Crab is awesome,” Carr told reporters. “Obviously he makes big plays, as we’ve seen. I trust him. I’ll throw it before he even breaks, but we built that trust. We built that and he’s such a joy to be around. He’s literally one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever had because he’s so passionate.”