Wide receiver Michael Crabtree, cut by the Oakland Raiders when they signed free agent Jordy Nelson, is in Baltimore awaiting this week's visit by his previous teammates. The former No. 10 overall pick of the San Francisco 49ers spent the last three years with Oakland.
In 2016, he caught a career-high 89 passes for 1,003 yards, but last year he and quarterback Derek Carr did not seem in synch and Crabtree caught only 58 passes (of 101 targets). By the end of the season there were rumors that Carr and Crabtree were not on speaking terms.
For whatever reason, Crabtree was considered expendable after head coach Jon Gruden showed up. But Nelson, a favorite of Aaron Rodgers at Green Bay, has not added much to the Raiders offense, partially due to injury, but his loss of foot speed is obvious.
"We felt, in the best interest of, I think, the Raiders and Michael Crabtree, it was probably better that both parties moved on," Gruden said.
Nelson has caught 25 catches for 353 yards and three touchdowns in nine games. He missed last week's game because of a knee injury, but could return this Sunday in Baltimore.
Carr said this week that he had hoped Crabtree would stay and told him so the day he was cut.
> "I loved Crab, we had great games, great times together," Carr said. "I didn't want to see him go and told him so. We had great chemistry, especially on those red-zone plays."
Crabtree caught 25 touchdowns in three seasons with the Raiders, including a few highlight-reel candidates. The most remarkable was last year in Week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs when he decided the game by catching a 2-yard pass - on an untimed play after time expired -- to shock the Chiefs, 31-30.
Interestingly, that was the last game-winning touchdown for Carr.
In Baltimore, Crabtree has caught 42 passes for 479 yards and two scores and hasn't missed a game. He is on pace for 75 catches and 852 yards.
Crabtree, a 31-year-old vet now, caught only one pass for 7 yards last week from with rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson.
When asked how he felt about facing the Raiders this week, Crabtree feigned indifference.
"It's football," he said. "It's just another game of football."