In the 1998 NFL Draft, the Raiders took the playmaking Heisman trophy winner Charles Woodson out of the University of Michigan. Woodson immediately became the face and cornerstone for the Raiders defense during his time in Oakland.
His rookie season ended with a trip to Honolulu, as he was named to the AFC Pro Bowl team following an impressive five interception season. He followed up his rookie year with an even more impressive sophomore campaign. He earned his second straight appearance on the AFC Pro Bowl squad and was named to NFL All-Pro First Team at the cornerback position. His stint in Oakland ended after eight seasons with a bitter contract dispute between Woodson and owner Al Davis.
Woodson would sign a seven-year deal with the Green Bay Packers. His play would elevate in Green Bay, as he became a truly dominate force on the Packers’ defense. During his seven years with Green Bay, Woodson accumulated 38 interceptions, 11.5 sacks, and nine interception return touchdowns. His time in Green Bay would see him add four more Pro Bowl and two more NFL All-Pro First Team appearances to his resume.
During this offseason, the Packers decided to part ways with the aging defensive back to clear out the remaining $10 million dollars on his contract. Woodson initially found some interest from teams, such as the San Francisco 49ers, the Houston Texans, and the Denver Broncos. Most teams decided to wait until after the draft to make a move on Woodson. The Oakland Raiders eventually entered the picture to bring back their former superstar. After a visit to the Raiders’ team facilities, where he was met by a hoard of fans, Woodson inked a one-year deal with his former team.
A lot of questions have been asked about the Raiders’ signing of Woodson. Many wonder why a team that is beginning a rebuild would be interested in a player on the down-slope of his career. Is this simply a public relations and marketing ploy by the team to drum up interest for the upcoming season? Also, does Woodson have any gas left in the tank to be an effective player for the Raiders? The answers might surprise you.
Overall, the Woodson signing is a great move for the Raiders. Woodson still has some gas in the tank and he could help provide the Raiders’ defense with some of his versatility. Woodson really made a name for himself in Green Bay by showcasing his ability to play all over the field. Packers’ defensive coordinator Dom Capers would line up Woodson all over the secondary, especially during the last two seasons as Woodson’s main position became the safety position. Woodson at times would move inside the defense, almost like he was a linebacker and cover the tight end or he would be sent on blitzes off the edge. This versatility is going to help the Raiders this season.
Head coach Dennis Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver are excited about Woodson’s ability to disguise what they want to do. He may be a step or two slower and could possibly struggle if put in a position of outside coverage at corner or deep coverage as a safety, but he could definitely still make an impact on the inside of the defense. He could play as an in-the-box safety or cover the slot receiver. He still flashes playmaking ability as he is just two seasons removed from a year with seven interceptions and 17 pass deflections. He will provide an impact on the Raiders’ defense, but his snaps might have to be limited to increase his durability over the course of the season.
The other area which will provide a major impact for the Raiders is his leadership. Woodson brings in 15 years of NFL experience and he has been a defensive leader and captain for most of those seasons on two different teams. He is going to be a major calming influence over a relatively young defense that is mostly made up of players with five years or less of experience in the NFL.
He will also provide the young members of the secondary with a mentor. Young players such as D.J. Hayden, Tracy Porter, Mike Jenkins, and Tyvon Branch should see their development increase at a greater pace, as they get to learn from a sure-fire Hall of Fame candidate. Branch, in particular, should see the greatest influence. He has been the best member of the Raiders’ secondary for the last few seasons, but Woodson’s tutelage should help Branch make that jump from good to great. Also, Hayden should never leave Woodson’s side during his rookie season. The youngster has an opportunity to come in as a rookie and learn from one of the greatest defensive backs in NFL history.
The best part of the Woodson signing is the contract. He was signed to a one-year deal worth $1.1 million with a $700,000 signing bonus. He also has several difficult-to-reach incentives that make the maximum value of the contract $4.3 million. The contract does not prevent them from making any moves on players that might be cut from teams as June rolls around. It also does not affect the future financial health of this team, or the $69 million in cap space in 2014. If Woodson can show that he still can be an impact type player, then the Raiders will have the choice to reward him with another contract that insures he retires in the Silver and Black.
The addition of Charles Woodson brings in a lot more than good public relations from Raiders’ fans. Woodson can still make an impact on defense, especially when teams go to the multiple wide receivers spread formations. He will also provide the secondary with a great leader and mentor for the young players. Lastly, his contract is easily absorbed by the team and it does not prevent the team from making any future moves.
Reggie McKenzie made a great decision to bring Wooson back into the fold of Raider Nation.