ALAMEDA, Calif. » Free agency didn’t go exactly the way Michael Crabtree planned.
The big-money, long-term deal that Crabtree had hoped to get on the open market never materialized and he ended up signing a one-year, prove-it deal with the Oakland Raiders that guarantees him just $1.3 million.
Crabtree said the free-agency process has left him feeling like he has to prove that he can still be the player who topped 1,100 yards receiving three years ago rather than the one who has been slowed by injuries the past two years.
"I’m here," he said Thursday. "Guys want me and need me. I talked to the coach. He wants me and needs me. I feel comfortable. I can’t wait to go play."
Crabtree hit the field with his new team for the first time this week as the Raiders held a veterans minicamp under new coach Jack Del Rio.
Crabtree is the biggest addition so far this offseason at a position that was the team’s biggest need. Oakland could add another playmaker in next week’s draft when Alabama’s Amari Cooper and West Virginia’s Kevin White are two of the top prospects on the board and could be the choice for the Raiders with the fourth overall pick.
The last time the Raiders took a receiver in the first round, they passed on Crabtree even though he was considered by many to be the top receiver on the board. Oakland instead took the faster Darrius Heyward-Bey seventh overall, three spots before Crabtree went to the San Francisco 49ers.
Crabtree has proven to be better than Heyward-Bey, who was cut after four ineffective years in Oakland. But he said he never thought much about what would have happened had he come to Oakland then.
"When you get drafted by a team you focus on that team," he said. "You don’t focus on the guys that miss you and all the other stuff. I’m here now. Can’t wait to play."
The Raiders have been in need of help at receiver for years. Oakland hasn’t had a player top 1,000 yards receiving in a season since Randy Moss did it in 2005.
James Jones led the team last season with 73 catches but gained only 666 yards, an average of just 9.1 yards per catch. Oakland has not added another receiver yet this offseason despite a glaring need for playmakers to help quarterback Derek Carr.
Crabtree has proven he can be that type of elite receiver. His best season came in 2012 when he had 85 catches for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns while helping San Francisco make it to the Super Bowl.
"He brings sure hands, the ability to separate and catch the ball," Del Rio said. "He’s got a few skins on the wall so to speak. He’s played in big games. He’s made big catches. He’s had really significant production in the first six years of his career."
But Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon the following offseason and was limited to 19 catches for 284 yards in five games in 2013. Crabtree had 68 catches for 698 yards and four touchdowns last season, when he had the sixth-lowest yards per catch of any wide receiver at 10.3.
Crabtree said he feels much healthier this season and is excited about joining a new offense that promises to be fast-paced.
"It’s football. I think my skill set fits in football, period," he said. "Catch the ball, first downs, touchdowns. As a receiver your job is to catch the ball. I think I do that. I’m all right."
NOTES: Del Rio said the Raiders had 100 percent attendance for the voluntary minicamp, although a few players were unable to practice because of injuries: LB Sio Moore, DT Dan Williams, LB Miles Burris, WR Brice Butler, TE Nick Kasa and RB Taiwan Jones.