If there is one thing that has become crystal clear about GM Reggie McKenzie‘s rebuild of the Oakland Raiders this offseason, it is that he values veteran leadership and a championship mindset. Despite letting marquee free agents Lamarr Houston, and Jared Veldheer walk rather than signing them to the expensive contracts it would have required to keep them, McKenzie has quietly assembled a roster filled with outstanding talent at a far more reasonable cost. Veteran players like Justin Tuck, Tarrell Brown, Antonio Smith, James Jones and Lamarr Woodley have joined McKenzie’s Raiders and will seek to turn the floundering franchise around. And late Wednesday night, according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, McKenzie has added another key veteran to the fold – Charles Woodson.
Last season, Woodson showed both McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen that he still has something left in the tank. Not only can he still flat out make plays, but he brings a calm, veteran leadership to the locker room along with the championship mindset he picked up in his years with the Green Bay Packers. He played last season on a one-year, incentive heavy deal that ultimately paid him around $3.3 million. Woodson made it clear that he would absolutely retire if the Raiders didn’t offer him up a deal that gave him the respect he absolutely deserves. Happily, though, Woodson has reportedly been offered a contract that showed him the respect he’s earned over his 16 distinguished years in the league, and he will have his chance to take a victory lap and retire with the franchise that drafted him all the way back in 1998.
Woodson played nearly every single down for the Raiders last year, piling up 97 tackles (third highest on the team), two sacks, an interception, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries (one of which he returned for a 25-yard touchdown against the San Diego Chargers). The fumble return was the 13th defensive score of Woodson’s career which ties him with Rod Woodson and Darren Sharper for the most defensive TDs in NFL history.
But more than the tackles and picks, Woodson is going to be expected to be the elder statesman in the locker room. He will be charged with grooming and mentoring the young defensive backs like DJ Hayden, as well as being the glue that holds the defensive squad together. With so many new faces in Silver and Black this coming season, Woodson’s familiarity with the team — and with the “Raider Way” — is going to prove invaluable.
With the team in transition and so much overhauling of the roster, the team almost had to bring Woodson back to help glue all of these disparate pieces together. It will be good for the Raider Nation to get to pay tribute to Woodson this season. It will be good to see Woodson get to take a well-deserved victory lap in what will very likely be his final season in the NFL. He’s been a warrior throughout his career, and he’s always held a special place in the hearts of Raiders fans.
McKenzie absolutely did the right thing in paying him the respect he deserves and bringing him back for one last go around. Woodson is going to be an invaluable asset to the team as they move forward into the new era of Raider football. Let’s hope that these new-look Raiders can make a run to the postseason if for no other reason than Charles Woodson deserves one last shot at a big game before he rides off into the sunset.