Receiver Jordy Nelson spent the last 10 years with the Green Bay Packers, becoming a favorite target of Aaron Rodgers and one of the league’s most productive pass-catchers for a time.
The Packers released Nelson on Tuesday. And as the veteran looks for a new team, the Raiders may be able to offer something few others can – a measure of continuity.
New Raiders receivers coach Edgar Bennett was hired by Jon Gruden in January after spending the last 13 seasons in Green Bay. That included a role as the Packers’ offensive coordinator from 2015-17 and receivers coach from 2011-14.
Bennett, then, represents a familiar face for Nelson, who is scheduled to visit the Raiders on Wednesday, according to a report from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. NFL free agency officially begins Wednesday afternoon with teams able to sign free agents starting at 1 p.m. PT.
Nelson eclipsed the 1,250-yard receiving mark four times from 2011-16 and led the league in receiving touchdowns two years ago with 14. He missed the entire 2015 season to a torn ACL, but returned in 2016 to record 97 catches for 1,257 yards. His numbers dipped last season – Nelson had 53 catches for 482 yards – while Rodgers played in just seven games due to injury.
Nelson turns 33 this offseason and there are questions about how his speed compares to early in his career. One person who apparently hopes to see Derek Carr throwing passes to Nelson next season, though, is Carr’s older brother and former NFL quarterback David, who tweeted his feelings Tuesday.
“Jordy can’t leave the building, make it happen, legally,” David Carr wrote.
Photo: Mike Roemer, Associated Press
The Raiders have been relatively quiet in the days leading up to the official start of free agency, likely partly due their standing toward the salary cap. The Raiders had about $15.8 million in cap space as of late last week, according to overthecap.com. That was before the releases of cornerback Sean Smith ($8.25 million) and right tackle Marshall Newhouse ($2.25 million), but also before they signed defensive tackle Justin Ellis to a new three-year deal, as well as receiver Griff Whalen and tight end Derek Carrier, neither of whom figure to carry heavy cap hits.
Nelson made a base salary of $8.25 million last season with the Packers, per overthecap.com, but could command less coming off a less productive season.
If the Raiders can sign Nelson, the Review-Journal reported they would explore the option of releasing Michael Crabtree, whose $7 million deal for next season is not guaranteed.
Crabtree led the team in catches last season with 58 (for 618 yards) and receiving touchdowns (8). He was also ejected from a game against the Broncos for fighting, missing most of the game, and was suspended for another as a result. Crabtree’s role in the offense diminished in the final two games and he was vocal about his displeasure.
At the NFL Combine, Gruden said that having a chance to work with Crabtree appealed to him when he took the Raiders job. However, Gruden also said that another receiver, Amari Cooper, will be the “focal point of our offense” in 2018.