Charles Woodson still durable at age 38

January, 26, 2015
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Raiders got an early jump on free agency Monday, signing veteran safety Charles Woodson to a contract extension.

Woodson
Woodson was one of the Raiders' defensive leaders in 2014 when he led the team in tackles and interceptions. The 38-year-old was also the only member of Oakland's starting secondary to play in all 16 games after injuries sidelined Tyvon Branch and cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers.

The former Heisman Trophy winner and 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Woodson was scheduled to become a free agent in March. He had stated his desire to return to Oakland but did it with a caveat, saying he only wanted to come back if the team retained then-assistant defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson.

Robertson was not only re-hired to be a part of head coach Jack Del Rio's staff last week, he was promoted to defensive backs coach as well.

"I wouldn't have spoken so strongly about him if I didn't feel he was so important," Woodson said last week while attending a Golden State Warriors game with his wife and children. "I definitely plan on playing."

Woodson, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, became the first player in NFL history to have at least 50 career interceptions and 20 sacks.

The rest of Oakland's secondary remains uncertain. Brown played very well before getting hurt while Rogers had an up-and-down season. Both are slated to hit the free-agent market, while Branch could be a salary cap casualty.

Charles Woodson, Raiders reach deal

January, 26, 2015
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Charles Woodson has agreed to a contract to return to the Oakland Raiders in 2015, the team announced Monday.

The team announced the move on Twitter, including a picture of the veteran safety signing his contract. Hall of Famer Willie Brown, who is a member of the Raiders' administrative staff, was on hand for Woodson's signing.

Woodson, 38, is one of the oldest position players in the NFL. He played at a high level for the 3-13 Raiders last season and was a Pro Bowl alternate.

Woodson had 112 tackles in 2014 and 97 in 2013, marking the two highest tackle totals in his career.

He played the past two seasons on one-year contracts with Oakland. Woodson said often in 2014 that he planned to return in 2015 because he felt physically good and felt he was getting better on the field.

The eight-time Pro Bowler has 60 career interceptions, the second most among active players.

ESPN.com Raiders reporter Bill Williamson contributed to this report.


(Read full post)


Take a listen to this week's NFL Nation TV podcast as the crew breaks down the latest in "deflategate" and the lead-up to Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) are joined by two other NFL Nation reporters to discuss the big game.

Kevin Seifert (NFL Nation writer) takes us behind the multi-step process that goes into the pregame checking of football inflation, and the impetus behind the league allowing quarterbacks to play with their own footballs. He also chats briefly about the Super Bowl's head referee, Bill Vinovich, and what we might be able to expect from his mixed crew.

Jeff Legwold (Denver Broncos reporter) shares his thoughts on covering the Super Bowl after having been in the press box of each championship game since Super Bowl XXVIII in Atlanta in 1994.

Be sure to watch NFL Nation TV live on ESPN.com this Friday at 1 p.m./10 a.m. PT as we catch up with Legwold and ESPN Insider's Mike Sando, who will fill us in on the Hall of Fame selection process that will occur this weekend.

Also, be sure to give the show's podcast a listen following each taping.

Listen to this week's podcast here.

Raiders eye college defensive coordinator

January, 26, 2015
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ALAMEDA, Calif. – With former Atlanta head coach Mike Smith taking himself out of the running, the Raiders appear to be targeting Louisville’s Todd Grantham as a candidate for their vacant defensive coordinator position.

Grantham spent one season at Louisville following a two-year stint with Georgia. Prior to that the 48-year-old spent three seasons as the defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and previously worked as an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts.

[+] EnlargeTodd Grantham
AP Photo/Timothy D. EasleyTodd Grantham's Louisville defense leads the nation in interceptions and is tied for seventh in sacks.
The Raiders don’t appear to be in a big rush to fill the job. Since naming Jack Del Rio as head coach earlier this month, the team has hired linebackers coach Sal Sunseri and promoted Marcus Robertson to defensive backs coach. The latter move was made in order to appease safety Charles Woodson, who has stated his desire to play another season in Oakland but only if Robertson was retained.
Del Rio had hoped to convince Smith to join his staff but Smith apparently wants to take a year off from football. Despite reports the two sides had met, it seems the Raiders are now headed in another direction.

According to a tweet from Dianna Marie Russini of NBC4 Washington, that direction appears headed toward the college ranks. Russini tweeted that the Raiders are interested in Grantham and that he was supposed to interview with Del Rio on Monday.
If that’s the case, expect Del Rio to have a heavy hand in the defensive play-calling. He previously said he would do that if the defensive coordinator didn’t have much experience at the NFL level. Grantham has that but Del Rio will still likely have a large input into what the team does defensively.

“It just depends on the situation, who we acquire as the defensive coordinator, how I assess his play-calling abilities and readiness and those types of things,” Del Rio said during his news conference earlier this month. “If it were a veteran guy hired that I had complete trust in to call game day than I would let that go. If it’s younger guy that is being groomed and maybe a first time, I might help him along that process. That’s something you work through with your staff to make sure that at the end of the day we’re going to play good defense here. “
It could have been a messy divorce based on the circumstances. Instead, Mike Tice made sure it was an amicable parting of ways with the organization that got him back in the game.

Tice, formerly the Atlanta Falcons' offensive line coach, was first told he would be blocked from pursuing other coaching opportunities this offseason. After a follow-up conversation with general manger Thomas Dimitroff, Tice was allowed out of his contract with one year remaining. Then, he signed the standard, two-year deal to hold the same position under close friend Jack Del Rio, the new coach of the Oakland Raiders.

"It was just an exciting opportunity for my wife, Diane, and I to be able to work for somebody that we knew, understood and know how he’s going to approach things," Tice said of working for Del Rio. "It was a comfort thing.

[+] EnlargeMike Tice
AP Photo/Bob LeveroneFormer Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice helped his unit succeed despite a rash of injuries.
"It was also an opportunity to get back on the West Coast. We haven’t been back on the West Coast since I left the Seahawks. I have a home in Seattle, and it’s a two-hour flight up the coast. My daughter lives in the Carson City area of Nevada, so she’s not far away. And I have a tremendous amount of friends in California."

It wasn’t so easy for Tice to leave Atlanta behind, though. In just one season with the Falcons, he earned the respect of many by orchestrating the unexpected improvement of a makeshift offensive line while losing five linemen to season-ending injuries. Tice made the most out of undrafted players James Stone and Ryan Schraeder, two regular starters at season’s end, along with veterans Jon Asamoah and Justin Blalock, and rookie first-round pick Jake Matthews.

"I was proud that through all of the adversity and through all of the line changes that these guys -- except for the last game -- improved every week and became a unit," Tice said. 'Once they started pushing as a unit, they were able to keep Matt (Ryan) clean, for the most part.

"Going into the last game, we had goal to be in the Top 10 in the least amount of sacks allowed in the league, and going into the last game, we were ranked sixth. I thought that was a great accomplishment. Unfortunately, we screwed it up in the last game and didn’t finish in the Top 10."

Maybe Tice fell short of his stated goal, but his accomplishments were why the Falcons didn’t want him to leave in the first place. He brought toughness to a unit that lacked it.

Now, he’ll be asked to take on a new challenge with the Raiders.

"I have an initial feeling on the guys," Tice said. "I think there is some talent here that we can work with. But I need to go and grade the whole season before giving a valid assessment of the group. No. 71 (Menelik Watson) and No. 66 (Gabe Jackson) look like they have the potential to be good players. The left tackle (Donald) Penn, from what I’ve seen to this point on film, played solid."

Tice is not even a week into the job, but appreciated how Del Rio allowed him to be a part of the process of interviewing other coaches. When Del Rio was the head coach in Jacksonville, Tice was the assistant head coach.

"First and foremost, Jack and I are friends and have been for a very, very long time," Tice said. 'Just to watch him operate and how he’s grown as a head coach with such professionalism, I’m very proud of him."

There appeared to be an outside chance Tice would reunite with fired Falcons coach Mike Smith in Oakland, but reports of Smith interviewing to be the Raiders defensive coordinator were not accurate. Smith is expected to take the year off from coaching.

"Mike Smith gave me an opportunity to come and work with some guys that I know and trust and respect," Tice said. "I was trying to get back in the league, and he opened doors for me that allowed me to get back. He’s a tremendously organized and passionate coach who treats everybody around with the utmost respect. And I really enjoyed working for Smitty.

"As far as the Falcons' organization, I was treated with the utmost respect and made a tremendous amount of friends in that building. My son is still in the building in the personnel department. They were very good to my family and I, and at the top of the list was allowing me to pursue this new opportunity."

Running back help needs to be a priority for Raiders

January, 26, 2015
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Raiders had a tough time getting their running game going this past season. Getting it fixed should be a priority for general manager Reggie McKenzie and new head coach Jack Del Rio.

To do that, the team first needs to figure out what to do with its current crop of running backs.

Darren McFadden managed to stay healthy for a full season but was still woefully unproductive despite a team-leading 534 yards. McFadden signed a one-year contract prior to the 2014 season and it’s uncertain whether he’ll be back in 2015.

Maurice Jones-Drew made little impact in his first season in Oakland and will likely be a salary-cap casualty.

Latavius Murray came off the bench most of the year and provided a much-needed spark with big games against Kansas City, San Francisco and Buffalo. Murray, who was second on the team in rushing with 424 yards, averaged 5.2 yards a carry.

Fullback Marcel Reece is also an option but he got lost in the shuffle of former offensive coordinator Greg Olson’s schemes.

Of the four, Murray is the likely front-runner for the starting job next season. He’s younger, faster and more athletic than either McFadden or Jones-Drew. Why it took the Raiders so long to get him involved in the offense remains one of the biggest mysteries of the 2014 campaign.

But to be truly effective on the ground, the Raiders need to find another runner to help Murray in the backfield.

Marshawn Lynch’s name has been linked to Oakland because he grew up in the Bay Area and because of rumors that he and the Seahawks are unhappy together. Lynch, however, is still under contract with Seattle and will likely be a central figure in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Frank Gore is another name to keep in mind. Although he’s 31 years old, Gore proved he’s still got plenty left in the tank and would be the power back the Raiders need to complement Murray’s speed. Although he’s expressed an interest to stay in San Francisco, the 49ers have two younger backs in their stable and might be willing to let Gore sign with another team.

Whatever the case, it’s imperative for the Raiders that they add another running back to the roster. Without a solid running game, Oakland will not be able to take the next step no matter who the coach or offensive coordinator is.
Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT, for a special ESPN NFL Nation TV Super Bowl Week Spreecast as episode No. 41 will review Deflategate and look ahead to what the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots can expect heading into Super Bowl XLIX.

Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) will be joined by EPSN NFL Insider Kevin Seifert and Jeff Legwold (Denver Broncos reporter).

Seifert, who has covered the world of NFL officiating with aplomb, will break down the process of inflating and inspecting footballs and how officials are involved in the process. He’ll also give us a scouting report on the officials assigned for Sunday.

Legwold, who covered the Broncos in last year’s Super Bowl, will then give us a day-by-day breakdown of the week and how teams attempt to stay focused with so many outside distractions.

Also, the crew will discuss the Pro Football Focus project that examined how many above-average players each NFL team was from contending for this year’s Super Bowl.

Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

NFL Nation TV will have a second show this week on Friday at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT.

Because the Oakland Raiders have a lot of needs and will have up to $70 million in salary-cap room, they will be in an interesting to watch in free agency, which begins March 10.

Yes, general manager Reggie McKenzie reiterated this month the main focus will be building through the draft, but the Raiders are sure to be players in free agency.

Thomas
Already this month, we looked at some natural fits around the league and some possibilities new coach Jack Del Rio could bring from Denver. As I continue to think about it, one of the offensive players from Del Rio’s old team could be a nice, nice fit.

How would Julius Thomas look in Oakland?

Bleacher Report has reported that Thomas is expected to walk in free agency. The Raiders need a playmaker and have money to play with. Thomas could be worth that money.

Yes, Oakland has Mychal Rivera, but Thomas is a much better big-play weapon and Rivera could still contribute as a No. 2 tight end. Thomas is from nearby Stockton and already knows Del Rio, so he could be intrigued by the idea.

Derek Carr needs weapons, and having Thomas would instantly make Carr and the entire offense better.

I will be discussing free-agent pairings in the next several weeks if they make sense. This one makes sense. That doesn’t mean it will happen, but it wouldn’t shock me.

Raiders continue to add coaches

January, 25, 2015
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While the Oakland Raiders are still searching for a defensive coordinator, the team is about finished assembling its offensive coaching staff.

ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported that former Detroit Lions assistant offensive line coach Bobby Johnson will be Oakland's tight ends coach. Caplan also reported former Buffalo Bills receivers coach, and former NFL receiver, Rob Moore is on the verge of joining the Raiders’ staff in the same capacity. There were multiple reports saying former NFL running back and coach Bernie Parmalee will be Oakland’s running backs coach.

Earlier, Oakland hired Bill Musgrave as offensive coordinator, Mike Tice as offensive line coach and Todd Downing as quarterbacks coach. In all, new coach Jack Del Rio appears to have nine assistant coaches in place.

The remaining major job opening is defensive coordinator. Wade Phillips and Mel Tucker remain possibilities while Rio is also believed to be looking at candidates who are currently in the college ranks.
Weekend mail call:

Rick from Epworth wants to know how many draft picks the Oakland Raiders have in 2015.

Bill Williamson: They are on schedule for a pick in each round. I wouldn't think they are going to get a compensatory pick because of all the free agents they added in 2014, but it won't be official until late March.

Tony from L.A. wants to know if I think the Raiders could trade out of the No. 4 spot.

McFadden
BW: I think the most likely scenario in which Oakland could trade the pick is if Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston falls to No. 4 and the Raiders can benefit from a desperate team aiming to make the trade. That is probably an unlikely scenario though. I could see Tennessee either taking Winston or trading the No. 2 pick. Because there are going to be so many quality options as far pass-rushers go, and because Alabama receiver Amari Cooper will likely be there, I'd think the Raiders will be inclined to stay at No. 4.

Jerry from San Diego wants to know if I think Darren McFadden will be back in Oakland this season.

BW: It depends on what the new staff wants. But I'd think McFadden, who had his worst NFL season while on a one-year deal with the Raiders in 2014, would be interested in seeing if he can salvage his career in another system. I could also see the Raiders wanting to go in another direction as they look for depth at the position.
Tim Brown hears it all the time: He is going to be a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

That's great and all, but he’s waiting.

“If I had a dollar for every time I hear, ‘You’re definitely going to get in, it’s just a matter of time,’ I’d retire again,” said Brown, the former Oakland Raiders star receiver and punt returner, Friday as he gears for another year of waiting.

Once again, Brown is one of 15 modern-day finalists up for election into the Canton, Ohio, museum. The vote and announcement will be Jan. 31 in Phoenix as part of Super Bowl weekend. He has been one of the final 15 nominees every year since he became eligible for induction in 2010.

It is clear the process is wearing on Brown, who said he’d happily accept being told a future date for election and wait it out. He said the process is toughest on his family and friends.

There is no guarantee Brown’s wait is going to end this year. Last year, he didn’t make the final 10, but former Indianapolis Colts receiver Marvin Harrison did. This year’s nominee list is stacked again, with a maximum of five modern-day nominees getting elected. And Harrison is among the finalists again, too.

“It is what it is,” said Brown, who will be in Phoenix during the Super Bowl week, willing to talk to media about his case.

Brown, 48, said his eventual election will be bittersweet because three important people in his life -- his father, best friend and former Raiders teammate Chester McGlockton, and Raiders owner Al Davis -- have died since he became eligible and won’t be able to celebrate his election with him.

Brown, who said his brother, Don Kelly, will present him at his induction when it happens, was a nine-time Pro Bowler. He is fourth all time in career receptions (1,094) and receiving yards (14,934). He had 100 career receiving touchdowns.

Brown accomplished those numbers without the benefit of an accomplished quarterback. He said he often joked with future Hall of Fame receivers that he’d trade his situation with theirs. He said he had no takers. Brown recalled when he nearly signed with Denver 21 years ago, but the Raiders secured him. He’s said he wouldn’t trade his path for anything.

Now, he is awaiting the final call.
A look where the Oakland Raiders' current and former coaching staff stand now:

The winner: Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio gets his second full-time head-coaching job. He previously coached Jacksonville.

Hired: Bill Musgrave, offensive coordinator; Mike Tice, offensive line; Brad Seely, special teams; Marcus Robertson, secondary; Todd Downing, quarterback; Sal Sunseri, linebackers.

Assistant coach possibilities: At defensive coordinator, former Atlanta head coach Mike Smith was considered the favorite, although there was a report out of Washington D.C., saying a pairing is unlikely. Wade Phillips could be a possibility as well, although Denver is interested, too. One of Del Rio's former Jacksonville assistants Mel Tucker could be a possibility. The Raiders are reportedly looking at college defensive coordinators. Luke Richesson, who was with Del Rio in Jacksonville and Denver, may be a candidate for the strength and conditioning job. Ryan Silverfield, an assistant offensive line coach under Musgrave in Minnesota, has been named as a possibility for a role on the staff.

Front-office possibilities: Longtime business assistant Marc Badin was promoted to president. He is key to the team's stadium push. Mike Holmgren has talked to the team about a football role several times in recent in years.

On the way out: Former Oakland head coach Dennis Allen has joined New Orleans as a senior assistant. The 49ers hired former Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano as tight ends coach. Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver went to San Francisco as linebackers coach/senior assistant. Quarterbacks coach John Defilippo was hired as the Browns' offensive coordinator. And former Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson was hired in Jacksonville for the same job. Defensive line coach Terrell Williams has taken the same job at Florida. The Jets hired former special teams coach Bobby April for the same job.
Over the next several weeks the Oakland Raiders will make decision on what players they will keep or cut. The 2015 calendar starts March 10. The Raiders have more than $49 million in salary cap room and they have a chance to gain much by cutting several players.

Here is a look at some of the candidates who could be cut:

Matt Schaub, quarterback

2015 salary cap number: $5.5 million

Schaub was acquired to be the starter and he made $8 million. But he was just the holder. It’s highly doubtful Schaub will return.

Maurice Jones-Drew, running back

2015 salary cap number: $2.5 million

Jones-Drew was signed to be the starter. But he ended up with just 96 yards rushing for the season. Even though he has Jacksonville history with Del Rio, I wouldn’t think Jones-Drew will be back.

Austin Howard, guard

2015 salary cap number: $6.4 million

I doubt Howard will be cut, because it would cost the Raiders some. He improved as the season progressed as he transitioned from tackle to guard. I’d expect him to get another year.

Lamar Woodley, defensive end

2015 salary cap number: $5.18 million

Woodley was not a good signing. He had five tackles in six games before he was lost for the season with a biceps injury. The Raiders can easily cut him and I expect that to happen. Meanwhile, I’d think the Raiders will likely keep fellow 2014 veteran picks, Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith. They have a combined 2015 cap number of $9 million. They both had their moments in in 2014. Perhaps their deals could be adjusted, but I’d think they are both probably safe.

Nick Roach, linebacker

2015 salary cap number: $3.7 million

Assuming Roach is healthy, I’d think the Raiders would keep him. He missed all of last season with a concussion, which is very drastic. The last reports have been positive. Roach was a plus-player in 2013 and I’d imagine he stays.

Tyvon Branch, safety

2015 salary cap number: $9.65 million

Branch can’t stay healthy. He’s missed 27 games due to injury the past two years. The Raiders need to get younger at safety. It wouldn’t shock me if the Raiders moved on.

Sebastian Janikowski, kicker

2015 salary cap number: $3.6 million

Janikowski will be 37 in in March and he has a high salary for a kicker. But he missed just three field goal attempts after missing nine attempts in 2013. I’d be a bit surprised if Janikowski is cut.
There are multiple reports that the Oakland Raiders are hiring Florida State defensive line coach Sal Sunseri as an assistant coach.

[+] EnlargeSal Sunseri
AP Photo/Wade PayneSal Sunseri has coached in college at Alabama, Tennessee and Florida State for the last five years.
His exact role has not been disclosed. While anything is possible, the expectation is Sunseri is being hired as a position coach. He has one season of experience as a defensive coordinator at a high level -- he was the University of Tennessee’s defensive coordinator in 2012. He was with the Carolina Panthers as a defensive line coach from 2002-08. New Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio was on that staff in 2002.

A report out of Washington said the Raiders are looking at the college level for defensive coordinator candidates. If that holds true, then expect Del Rio to call the plays. He said that would be the case if he hired an inexperienced defensive coordinator.

The Raiders have been connected to former Falcons head coach Mike Smith and former Jets and Browns head coach Eric Mangini. However, there have been reports Smith might not want to take the job, and Mangini became the 49ers’ defensive coordinator Thursday.

Other potential candidates with NFL experience who have been connected to the Raiders are Mel Tucker, who worked for Del Rio in Jacksonville, and Wade Phillips. For now, the situation seems fluid.

Meanwhile, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan reported that the Raiders have hired former Buffalo Bills quarterbacks coach Todd Downing as the quarterbacks coach. Downing was on the staff of Mike Tice in Minnesota several years ago.

Meanwhile, Former Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano has joined the San Francisco 49ers as tight ends coach. He is an offensive line specialist. Sparano joins former Oakland defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, who is a senior assistant and linebackers coach, for San Francisco. Oakland brought in former 49ers special teams coach Brad Seely for the special-teams job.

Ryan Silverfield, an assistant offensive line coach under new Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave in Minnesota, has been named as a possibility for a role on the staff.

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