Oakland Raiders: Crabtree’s Value Defined By More Than Dollar Amount

Nov 29, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) celebrates defeating the Tennessee Titans during the second half at Nissan Stadium. Oakland won 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 29, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) celebrates defeating the Tennessee Titans during the second half at Nissan Stadium. Oakland won 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders are being criticized for giving Michael Crabtree a hefty raise to keep him in the East Bay – but his worth to the team is defined by more than what he’s making.

More from Las Vegas Raiders News

Over the last few years, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has been one of the shrewdest and savviest in the game. He’s drafted extremely well, landing foundation pieces for the franchise the past couple of years and has lured top flight free agent talent to the East Bay. And best of all, he hasn’t had to mortgage the future of the franchise to do it.

But now he’s taking some heat for his decision to give wide receiver Michael Crabtree a four year, $34 million dollar extension. Pro Football Focus, who have given McKenzie a lot of credit for many of his moves over the last couple of years, took exception to Crabtree’s deal, ranking it the fourth worst contract in the NFL today.

When the Raiders signed Crabtree away from the San Francisco 49ers before last season, there were a lot of raised eyebrows and a lot of skepticism about having him don the Silver and Black. After a injury that wiped out all but five games of his 2013 season, Crabtree came back in 2014 and posted a less than stellar year – 68 receptions for 698 yards and four scores. It was one of the worst statistical seasons of his career.

When McKenzie signed him, there were many didn’t like bringing him on board, believing that he was done and would never again be the receiver who put up good numbers in 2012 – 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. Some were worried about his attitude and how it might affect team chemistry. There were plenty who, at the time, weren’t fans of the move.

Related Story: McKenzie Would Be Wise To Lock Amerson Up Now

But Crabtree came in last season and proved all of his doubters wrong. He put up the second best statistical season of his career – 85 receptions for 922 yards, and nine touchdowns. More than that, he was an incredibly reliable target for Derek Carr and helped take some of the focus and pressure off rookie sensation Amari Cooper.

But PFF tabbed Crabtree’s contract as one of the worst based on nothing more than the grade they assigned him – based primarily on the negative grade they gave him in six of the last seven games.

"“$11 million is a big number for most wide receivers, but especially one that failed to grade positively in six of the last seven games last year, wherein he dropped five passes and fumbled once. The silver lining in this contract is that the deal contains no dead money after 2016—the mark of a player signing with a team which has a surplus of cash on hand. If Crabtree struggles, he can be released relatively easily in subsequent offseasons. The problem is that if he stays in Oakland, he’ll have to play consistently at or around what has been his career peak to justify the numbers in his contract moving forward, a scenario that seems unlikely given his age (28) and injury history.”"

For many players, being 28 years old means that they are still in their prime and still have plenty of tread left on their tires. And though they make note of his “injury history,” it’s a note that has little substance behind it. Other than the injury that wiped out most of his 2013 season, Crabtree has only missed six other games in his seven season career. That sounds like the record of a fairly durable player.

Crabtree was a real bright spot for the Oakland offense last season and he far exceeded the expectations of just about everybody. And with a dearth of receiving talent on the free agent market, it made sense for McKenzie to move swiftly to secure Crabtree’s services.

More from Golden Gate Sports

PFF provides a lot of useful, interesting information, and what they do has value. But where their estimation in the case of Crabtree falls short though, is in their inability to factor in qualities other than raw data. They don’t factor in the intangibles a player brings to a team. Not only was Crabtree one of Oakland’s best, most reliable receivers last season, but he was a leader on the team, and a mentor to Cooper.

All of those things transcend Crabtree’s cap number and are things that you can’t really put a value on. And let’s not be ridiculous about this – Crabtree isn’t making anywhere near top dollar for wide receivers. He’s the fifteenth highest paid wideout in the NFL. Fifteenth.

With an average cap hit of $8.5 million dollars over the next four seasons, Crabtree’s salary is modest in comparison to plenty of other receivers in the league. And for the value he brings to the team, it’s a salary figure the Raiders are more than happy to pay.

After the numbers he put up last season, somebody was going to pay Crabtree. And he likely could have commanded more on the open market if he’d tested it. But seeing the value he brought to the organization, McKenzie was smart to lock him down to a contract that is pretty team friendly – there is zero dead money after this season if he doesn’t produce and the team moves on from him – and a relatively modest cap hit for the remainder of the deal.

And for Crabtree’s part, he rewarded the faith the Raiders showed in him last season by opting to not test the open market and worked out a deal to stay with the team.

Next: Five Players Facing Make Or Break Seasons In 2016

It’s a win for both player and team. Crabtree was a fantastic complement to Cooper last season and was a dynamic part of Oakland’s offense. And his value to the team absolutely transcends the number of zeros on his check.

PFF may not like it and think his deal is one of the worst in the league, but by the time all is said and done, Crabtree’s deal very well may look like one of the league’s best bargains.