Wedge Antilles is the Bomb: Is Michael Crabtree the Answer for the Oakland Raiders?
Do you remember Wedge Antilles? Unless you’re a Star Wars nut like me, probably not.
Wedge Antilles was actually the only pilot, other than Luke Skywalker, that survived not just one, but two runs on two different Death Stars. Now if that isn’t luck, I don’t know what is. But regardless of that, what’s interesting about Wedge is that he started out as an important, but peripheral, character and ultimately became not only reliable, but in expanded universe Star Wars books (i.e. books written for nerdy folks like me who can’t get enough of Star Wars), he became a general and one of the leaders of the New Republic. Yeah, yeah, I know, too much information.
So how is this relevant to Michael Crabtree and the Oakland Raiders? Well, Crabtree has been anything but consistent so far in the NFL and is now a free agent. But could Crabtree be the Oakland Raiders’ Wedge Antilles?
Back on February 12, I said that I thought that Michael Crabtree would be a good fit for the Oakland Raiders. I’m glad that the Raiders and Crabtree have finally decided to listen to me:
Crossing the bay? WR Michael Crabtree will visit the #Raiders next week, a source said.
— Rand Getlin (@Rand_Getlin) April 3, 2015
Back almost two months ago, this is what I said about Crabtree in Oakland:
Randall Cobb would be a huge get for Oakland (and perhaps James Jones will improve with his former running mate), but there will be significant competition for his services. Perhaps Crabtree would be a more reasonable, more affordable option, while still providing as much upside as Cobb. Clearly, there would also be significantly more risk in Crabtree, but when have the Raiders been risk adverse? Crabtree never quite returned to the promise he showed in the 2012 playoffs, but perhaps he’s just rounding back into form. Crabtree is only 27 (to be 28 around the beginning of the 2015 season) so there’s still potential there, and he may be the best of what’s available once Cobb is off the market.
So now Cobb is off the market and, so far, Crabtree has crashed and burned in free agency, with his only visit being with the Miami Dolphins. Heck, it’s getting so bad for Crabtree that some teams, like the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, are apparently preemptively telling people they don’t want him. Of course, what this means is that Crabtree’s services might actually come at a discount now, as opposed to the $9-$10 million per year he was looking for at the beginning of free agency. The primary question, though, is, regardless of the price, whether Crabtree is still a good fit for the Raiders.
First, let’s get back to basics. We know that Crabtree was a product of the Texas Tech Red Raiders’ offensive system, which essentially means high octane spread offense with a focus on passing the ball and scoring quickly. Crabtree thrived in that system ultimately setting 8 different NCAA records, most of which were in his freshman year. Heck, he was so good in college, that he actually got himself on the cover EA’s NCAA Football 10 video game for Xbox 360.
Second, we also know that Crabtree has had a number of injuries during his tenure on the San Francisco 49ers (including a broken foot and torn Achilles), who actually drafted Crabtree after the Raiders passed on him to take Darius Heyward-Bey, to the “amusement” of Raiders fans:
Of course, this led to Crabtree setting another “record”, but this time not one he should proud of, as he set a 49ers record for having the longest rookie holdout in franchise history prior to ultimately signing his contract on September 9, 2009. But even with the injuries and his holdout, he still managed to average about 13 regular season games per year over 6 seasons with the 49ers, the best of which being 2012, the only year he broke 1000 yards. His 9 regular season touchdowns in 2012 were as many as he had in 2011, 2013 and 2014 combined.
But Crabtree remained very useful in the post season, averaging 64.5 yards per game, 12.9 yards per catch and totaling 4 touchdowns over 8 post season games.
Third, let’s recall that new Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave has always been a fan of the up tempo spread offense, similar to what he ran as Offensive Coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings and Quarterbacks Coach for the Philadelphia Eagles under West Coast offense guru Chip Kelly. And Musgrave has said he’s hoping to employ this improved up tempo offense in Oakland, one in which Crabtree might excel.
Honestly, Oakland should continue to consider drafting a wide receiver in the draft (like Jaelen Strong), but if Oakland can acquire Crabtree for a $3-$4 million incentive ladened one year contract, there may be no better gamble to take. Crabtree has a lot to prove, as his performance in 2015 may signal his worth for the remainder of his career. The Raiders have nothing to lose, and taking a chance on Crabtree recreating his 2012 year is one worth taking. Because sometimes, being the in the right place at the right time is all you need to become legendary.
Just ask Lego Wedge Antilles.