Money. That can be the only reason that 36-year-old Charles Woodson opted to sign with the rebuilding Oakland Raiders over the Super Bowl contending Denver Broncos, right? Woodson's Oakland contract reportedly will be worth a maximum of $4.3 million in 2013; the Broncos offered $3.7 million, per the Denver Post. Who wouldn't want an extra $600,000? (Even if California taxes and living expenses might erase those gains.)
So that has to be it. Money. Not that Woodson enjoyed his time in Oakland from 1998-2005 or that he saw the opportunity for more playing time with the Raiders than he would have had with the Broncos or that he has a solid relationship with former Packers director player of personnel-turned-Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie.
Nah, had to be the $600K and nothing else for a player who's made millions upon millions in his NFL career.
Come on, can we just step back and give the Raiders at least a tiny iota of credit here? I realize that's a bit of an odd request, given how that franchise has bumbled its way through the past decade -- Oakland has not made the playoffs since 2002 (the fifth of eight seasons Woodson spent in silver and black after being the No. 4 overall pick in 1998) and has won more than five games just twice in the past 10 years.
But as the Broncos seemed to inch closer to the top of the NFL this offseason by adding, among others, Wes Welker and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, McKenzie rather quietly has done very solid work laying the groundwork for an improved Raiders team.
Woodson will compete with (and ought to beat out) free-agent signing Usama Young for the free safety role, making him one of nine new starters on the Oakland defense.
The money is nice, sure, but Woodson also could step into the mix as an every-down player -- something Denver may not have been willing to offer -- and as a much-needed veteran presence on a reworked defense. All that, plus the love shown to him by a throng of Raiders fans who awaited his arrival at team headquarters on Tuesday, might have meant more to Woodson than another paycheck.
"To be honest, I didn't even know how to react to it," Woodson told Raiders.com of the fan turnout. "I had heard they were gonna do it, but you really don't know if it's gonna happen. But to drive up here today and see all the fans yelling and excited that I'm back, that means a lot."
"I can't wait. I can't wait to go to work, I can't wait to put that silver and black jersey back on and help this team win."
I'm not naive. The $4.3 million Woodson could make in base salary and incentives surely caught his attention and aided his decision. Players frequently play teams' front offices against each other to create bidding wars, then choose the highest available contract.
Woodson no doubt did that, at least to some extent, forcing the Raiders to up the ante on Denver's offer. So, yea, maybe Woodson just waited as long as he could for the richest possible deal, then signed on the dotted line.
Before we just brush this whole situation off as a player chasing the money, though, perhaps we can give the Raiders a little credit for once. Both to improve their current roster and give their fans a little bit of a jolt, McKenzie set his sights on Woodson. That he landed the likely future Hall of Famer is a boon for the franchise. And it is possible, no matter how hard it might be to process, that this is exactly what Woodson wanted, too.