It appears all the speculation about Michael Crabtree’s departure from the Raiders was premature.
The veteran wide receiver had a down season in 2017, and several observers wrote and talked after the season that Crabtree perhaps had worn out his welcome. Injuries, lack of production and attitude were cited as reasons.
But Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, speaking to reporters Wednesday in Indianapolis at the NFL combine, went in a different direction.
"Mike didn’t finish, but neither did we as a team," said McKenzie. "Things did not go well, so we can point fingers at a lot of those types of situations, but we’re not going to dwell on what happened last year. It’s all about that we’re going to press forward and get the most out of the guys we got, and get it working."
New head coach Jon Gruden on Wednesday also backed Crabtree, a day after The Athletic reported Crabtree will return to play in silver and black for another season.
"He’s on the team," said Gruden.
Though Crabtree’s production fell in 2017 — from 89 catches and 1,003 yards the previous season to 58 and 618 — the 31-year-old wideout is due to make more than $7.5 million in 2018.
As columnist Dieter Kurtenbach of the Bay Area News Group wrote this week, keeping Crabtree is a good move for the salary cap (the team would have to pay much more to bring in a veteran free agent) and continuity, as well as the fact Crabtree’s rough season could have been a one-time thing, due to multiple factors.
Kurtenbach wrote that Crabtree’s slump likely "was a blip," adding: "I doubt that Crabtree is a 1,000-yard receiver again in his career, but I also doubt that he’ll be a 600-yard receiver who is on the sideline for critical moments of critical games again in 2018, either."
"The truth of the matter, as per most things these days, lies somewhere in the middle of those two options. And that’s the kind of receiver you don’t cut without a viable backup plan in place."