Running back Maurice Jones-Drew has come home, to the Oakland Raiders.
Jones-Drew, a native Oakland and former football and track star for East Bay prep powerhouse De La Salle, signed a three-year deal with the Raiders. He said the Raiders were the one team that still had confidence in his ability.
"On the field, they're going to give me a chance to compete," Jones-Drew said. "A lot of teams had already kinda conceded that I didn't have anything left and all these different questions they may have had. Oakland's going to give me a chance. And they gave me a deal that shows that with incentives."
The Raiders also signed defensive linemen C.J. Wilson and Pat Sims.
Jones-Drew, 29, informed the Raiders on Thursday night he would sign. That sets up a battle for the starting job between two stars sidelined by injury all too often -- Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden.
McFadden, the Raiders' No. 4 overall draftee in 2008 after a sensational career at Arkansas, teased fans with hints of greatness, but has never been healthy or reliable for an entire season.
Jones-Drew was drafted in by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second round out of UCLA in 2006 and as recently as 2011 led the NFL in rushing with 1,606 yards while also catching 51 passes.
But after a protracted pre-season holdout, he finished 2012 on injured reserve with only 414 yards rushing. Last season, slowed by a foot injury, Jones-Drew rushed for only 3.4 yards per carry and a total of 803.
A similar injury also cost him 10 games in 2005. He was a first-team All-Pro in 2011 that league-leading 1,606 rushing yards and a Pro Bowler from 2009-11.
In 114 NFL games (70 starts), Jones-Drew has 1,804 carries for 8,071 yards (a 4.5 yards-per-carry average) and 68 touchdowns. He also has 335 receptions for 2,873 yards with 11 touchdowns and 79 kickoff returns for 2,054 yards with two touchdowns.
Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson was the Jaguars' assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach in 2012.
The Raiders also added help on the defensive side with Wilson.
"It feels great to be a Raider," Wilson said in a statement released by the team. "I'm excited to help the team win and ready to come make some noise."
Wilson joins the Raiders after spending four seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Last season, he played in eight games with no starts and totaled 10 tackles, including four solos.
In 2012, he played in 11 games, including seven starts, and had 2.5 sacks.
Sims signed a one-year contract, his agent, Rick Smith, announced on Twitter.
The 6-foot-2, 310-pound Sims started 16 games for the Raiders in 2013 and finished with a career-high 54 tackles. He had signed a one-year deal with Oakland last year after five seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.
--So much for the talk of Texas A&M's dynamic Johnny Manziel beginning his NFL career with the Oakland Raiders. Or any other quarterback expected to be selected high in the 2014 draft.
After being discarded in disgrace by the Houston Texans for a lowly sixth-round pick, Matt Schaub is penciled in as the starting quarterback for the Raiders "for more than just a year or two," according to head coach Dennis Allen.
Allen, offensive coordinator Greg Olson and Schaub himself were brimming with confidence Friday as they explained to the media how this will be the start, or re-start, of something good after the quarterback's stock plunged during a horrendous 2013 in Houston.
"We brought Matt Schaub in to be our starting quarterback and we feel very confident that he is going to be outstanding for us," Allen said. "He is a two-time Pro Bowl player and when you have the chance to add those kinds of players, that's what you do."
This latest move in the Raiders' rapidly revolving quarterback carousel puts Schaub atop a depth chart that includes Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin.
Schaub took a deep pay cut to join the Raiders, according to USA Today, who reported he will make $8 million in 2014 - about $3 million less than his deal with the Houston Texans called for -- including a $3.5 million roster bonus in April and a $4.5 million fully guaranteed base salary.
In 2015, Schaub's base salary will be $5.5 million. That is a reduction from $13.5 million in salary and bonuses under his Texans deal, which ran through 2016. The final year of the contract was removed.
With incentives for playing time and performance, Schaub could make back more than $5 million, and currently has cap charges of $8 million in 2014 and $5.5 million in 2015.
Schaub, 46-44 as a starter, lost his job and his confidence -- not necessarily in that order -- last year during a dreadful series of four consecutive, game-deciding, pick-six interceptions that helped launch the Texans into a 14-game losing streak.
After beginning last season as the starter of a team that some believed could make the Super Bowl, Schaub was booed in his home stadium when it was necessary to put him back into a late-season game. He was even booed while simply warming up.
But after reviewing Schaub's play for last year and before, Allen seems confident the quarterback will rebound. He reminded that something similar happened to another player.
No, he didn't mention Jim Plunkett, who was picked off the scrap heap in 1978 and wound up quarterbacking the Raiders in two Super Bowl victories. He recalled a more recent ascent from the ashes -- Kurt Warner.
"I don't think when you watch the whole tape that a lot of it was his fault and I think there was just a wave of momentum against him that was hard for him to overcome," Allen said of Schaub.
"But we've all seen guys. ... a guy that comes to my mind is a guy like Kurt Warner went to a Super Bowl won a Super Bowl in St. Louis, went on to play for the New York Giants and his career didn't go as well as he thought and really a lot of people thought that he was done and then he goes into Arizona and kind of resurrects his career."
Warner led the Cardinals into Super Bowl XLII.
"So I think the change of scenery will be outstanding for Matt," said Allen. "I think this is a good situation for both Matt Schaub and the Oakland Raiders."
Schaub readily concurred.
"A fresh start can do a lot of things for a player and a team," he said. "I'm one of those guys. Last year did not go at all how I had planned, given my prior nine years before that. I'm looking for a fresh start. I'm excited about the opportunity here and the players on this team, the coaches, the plan and the direction."
Allen added that while this does not definitely preclude taking a quarterback in the draft, it is doubtful the Raiders will select one very high.
"You don't feel that pressure to go out and draft a quarterback; you kind of let things fall to you," he said.
Olson said he was thrilled getting Schaub, whom he knew from his days with the Atlanta Falcons, who originally drafted him in the third round out of the University of Virginia in 2004. After playing in only six games while toiling as a back up to Michael Vick, Schaub was traded to Houston in March of 2007 in a deal that included sending two second-round picks to the Falcons.
Olson said this reminded him of his experience coaching with Jeff Garcia at San Francisco. Garcia didn't have much of a career until throwing 31 and 32 touchdowns in 2000 and 2001. And Schaub already has more of a rolling start.
"He's had nine seasons of a 90-plus quarterback rating, which I think there are only four or five players in the history of the league that have ever done that," Olson said of Schaub. "Obviously he's had a tremendous amount of experience. He's at an age right now where most quarterbacks are in their prime. We feel like he's got a lot of football ahead of him. He's a proven winner. We weren't going to let last season deter us from the player and the track record that he has shown over his career.
"I remember Jeff Garcia. ... Some players need to be in the right place at the right time and things just come together."
Schaub said the foot injury that bothered him last year is fine and he is more than ready to move on.
"Foot's great, healthy," he said. "The past is the past. I can't do anything about that except move on to bigger and better things. I'm excited for what the future holds here with Oakland. Just excited to get to work. I'm happy to be here and I'm very confident in my abilities and the players on this team."
--The NFL announced each team's preseason schedule without precise dates or times, except for national TV games and the final preseason week in which all games will be on Thurs. Aug. 28. Week 1 games are Aug. 7-10, Week 2 Aug. 14-18 and Week 3 Aug. 21-24.
The Raiders will be at home against Detroit in Week 2 and Seattle in Week 4, while going on the road to play Minnesota in Week 1 and Green Bay in Week 3. The game against the Packers will be at 5 p.m. Pacific time Friday, Aug. 22 on CBS.
--With wide receiver DeSean Jackson available to be signed, safety Charles Woodson hopes the Raiders strongly pursue him.
Said Woodson, "Bring him in, I think he would look good in the silver and black. Of course I know the business side of it, but I've watched this guy and what he is, is a dynamic football player. What they're talking (about) as far as off-the-field stuff, I have no clue about. The team would have to do their homework as far as that's concerned.
"But when you talk about bringing in a guy as talented as he is, and you have that opportunity, I think you take a shot at it. And I think where we are as a team, we need all the playmakers we can have, and adding that guy would definitely help take us to the next level."
Woodson also believes Jackson would be a priority of Al Davis was still the team's owner.
"There is no question in my mind that this is the type of player that Al would bring in," Woodson said. "You hear about the off-field stuff but I don't think Al would concern himself with that too much. I think Al would do his homework. But I think he would take a serious hard look, and if there was an opportunity I think he would bring that guy in.
"DeSean can stretch the field, and we know how much Al loved having guys that can stretch the field. So I don't think there is any question he would bring him in."
--How different will the Raiders be in 2014? Fullback Marcel Reece thinks it will be dramatic.
"There could be 50 new faces in that locker room," Reece said.
Reece promises to indoctrinate the players on what it means to be a Raider, although it should be noted he has never experienced a winning season in Oakland.
"I'm not expecting new guys to come in and set a tone," Reece said. "They don't know what it means to be a Raider. I'm looking forward to setting that one for that locker room. They're going to work like us. It's easy to talk about, but I'm looking forward to the challenge of leading by example each and every day."
McKenzie's background and public comments suggest a man who will be conservative during free agency and careful with his money. Reece sounds as if he wants him to attack the free agency period like Al Davis, whose approach put the Raiders in a hole both in terms of won-loss record and in terms of the salary cap.
"I want him to be fearless," Reece said. "I don't him to worry about anyone else. Let's go for it right now. That's what I'm looking forward to. No safe moves. I don't want those. I want smart, calculated, fearless, Raider-ass moves. We want guys committed to winning. That's what we want to do. We want to win right now."
--Tackle-guard Khalif Barnes won the team's Ed Block Courage Award in part because of his willingness to step in at guard, a position out of his comfort zone at tackle.
He came back to the Raiders, signing his sixth straight one-year contact, for 2014.
"It's very beneficial because of the position flexibility Khalif has had," line coach Tony Sparano told Raiders.com. "It gives us the flexibility to do a lot of things with him.
Barnes said he wanted to return to be part of the Raiders rebuilding process and is confident better days are ahead..
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--Continuing their search for a left tackle after Rodger Safford's deal was canceled, the Raiders landed Donald Penn, who was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after seven years with the franchise.
Penn is penciled in to battle for the left tackle spot vacated by Jared Veldheer, who left the Raiders as a free agent and signed a five-year, $35 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals, where he will protect another former Raider, quarterback Carson Palmer.
The 30-year-old Penn is expected to compete with Menelik Watson, a second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft for the left tackle job.
Penn had interest from Washington, but he said, "The Redskins wanted me to play tight tackle. Ultimately, I wanted to play left tackle. I love going against the best on the field. Whoever the QB is in Oakland next season, they'll be able to sleep better at night knowing their blind side is protected."
Penn also said he is happy to be coming to Oakland. He said, "I was really impressed with what they've done so far in free agency, the building blocks are in place here and it's exciting."
--DEFENSIVE END: Houston's strength was providing pressure if not sacks. It looks like he'll need to be replaced, preferably by someone with more finishing skill. A base run-stopper will also be sought. Justin Tuck was signed with the only question being how much he has left.
--CORNERBACK: With Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins gone in free agency, the Raiders are looking for a starter opposite second-year player DJ Hayden as well as an accomplished slot corner to help deal with the divisional dilemmas of Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Alex Smith. They signed Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers, but could still be looking.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--C-G Andre Gurode played at both left guard and center after being brought in for depth but was out of the Raiders plans in the final seven games of the season, never seeing the field.
--DE Jason Hunter is a role-playing base end and solid locker-room presence who adds little in terms of rushing the passer but is solid against the run. Could be brought back but the Raiders could wait and be fairly certain he'll be available once the first wave of free agency passes.
--TE Jeron Mastrud was a 12-game starter but was largely a blocker with no impact on the passing game (six receptions, 88 yards), with rookie Mychal Rivera poised to take over fulltime if he can improve his blocking. Could be brought back but not a priority.
--DT Daniel Muir played a minor role as a veteran reserve defensive tackle and given the team's preference for going young, Muir's return if at all likely wouldn't be until training camp or later.
--T Tony Pashos came aboard after being released by the Redskins, moved immediately into the starting lineup at right tackle and was a 12-game starter, missing four games with a groin injury. Early on, he graded out as one of their best linemen but the club may be looking at younger players such as second-year player Menelik Watson.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--LB Kaelin Burnett is a core special teams player and the brother of starting Raiders weak-side starting linebacker Kevin Burnett.
--CB Chimdi Chekwa has grown on the coaching staff after being originally cut and brought back to practice squad, then to 53-man roster.
--T Matt McCants fared well enough after being brought aboard last season with an injury-ravaged offensive line to merit another look.
--S Brandian Ross stepped in as a starter when Tyvon Branch went down at strong safety and spent much of the season struggling in coverage and missing a lot of tackle opportunities.
--G/T Khalif Barnes: Potential UFA; $1.2M/1 yrs, $100,000 SB.
--CB Taiwan Jones: Potential UFA; terms unknown.
--RB Darren McFadden: UFA; $1.75M/1 yr.
--FB Jamize Olawale: ERFA; terms unknown.
--DT Pat Sims: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--RB Jeremy Stewart: ERFA; terms unknown.
--S Usama Young: UFA; terms unknown.
--S Charles Woodson: UFA; $2.15M/1 yr, $1.15M guaranteed.
--OL Kevin Boothe: UFA Giants; $2.625M/2 yrs, $300,000 RB.
--CB Tarell Brown: UFA 49ers; $3.5M guaranteed/1 yr.
--LB Justin Cole: FA; $645,000/1 yr.
--QB Trent Edwards: FA; $730,000/1 yr.
--T Austin Howard: UFA Jets; $30M/5 yrs, $15M guaranteed.
--WR James Jones: UFA Packers; $10M/3 yrs, $3.65M guaranteed.
--RB Maurice Jones-Drew: UFA Jaguars; $7.5M/3 yrs, $1.2M guaranteed RB.
--T Donald Penn: FA Buccaneers; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Carlos Rogers: FA Redskins; terms unknown.
--QB Matt Schaub (trade Texans).
--DT Antonio Smith: UFA Texans; $9M/2 yrs.
--DT Torell Troup: FA; $570,000/1 yr.
--DE Justin Tuck: UFA Giants; $11M/2 yrs.
--DE C.J. Wilson: UFA Packers; $795,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--LB LaMarr Woodley: FA Steelers; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Phillip Adams: UFA Seahawks; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--G Mike Brisiel (released).
--WR Jacoby Ford: UFA Jets; $740,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--DE Lamarr Houston: UFA Bears; $35M.5 yrs, $4.95M SB/$15M guaranteed.
--CB Mike Jenkins: UFA Buccaneers; $1.5M/1 yr.
--RB Rashad Jennings: UFA Giants; $10M/4 yrs, $2.25M/SB/$2.98M guaranteed.
--CB Tracy Porter: UFA Redskins; terms unknown.
--T Jared Veldheer: UFA Cardinals; $35M/5 yrs, $6.25M SB/$17M guaranteed.
--DT Vance Walker: UFA Chiefs; $10.02M/3 yrs, $3M SB.
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