NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A great run with Big Blue has come to an end.
The Oakland Raiders got some good news in free agency Thursday, one day after voiding top target Rodger Saffold’s contract because of a bad shoulder.
The Raiders signed defensive end Justin Tuck to a two-year, $11 million contract in the first step toward rebuilding a line that has no returning starters on the roster.
Tuck joins the Raiders following nine seasons with the New York Giants during which he helped the team win two Super Bowl titles. Tuck has made two Pro Bowls and has 60.5 career sacks, 20 forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries in 127 career games with New York.
“Last week, I absolutely did not see it coming,” Tuck said. “It wasn’t necessarily on my radar at that point in time, but everything accelerated pretty quickly, and I’m excited. I really am. I like the direction that this team is talking about going in, and I just want to be a part of it.”
The Raiders need help on their pass rush after losing last year’s leading sacker and most consistent defender, LaMarr Houston, to Chicago in free agency. The other three starting defensive linemen — Pat Sims, Vance Walker and Jason Hunter — are also free agents.
Tuck, who turns 31 this month, was rated as the ninth best pass rushing defensive end by Pro Football Focus last season when he had 11 sacks, 12 quarterback hits and 44 hurries.
Oakland has not had a player reach double figures in sacks since Derrick Burgess and Warren Sapp both did it in 2006.
“Everyone talks about once you turn 30, it’s all downhill,” Tuck said. “I don’t believe in that. I don’t look at myself in that regard. I feel like I have a lot of great football left in me.”
The Raiders also met Wednesday with former Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley and Dallas defensive tackle Jason Hatcher. Hatcher left to visit Tennessee without a contract and there is no immediate word on whether Woodley will reach a deal with Oakland.
“I already put my word in with both of those guys,” Tuck said. “Obviously they have decisions to make, but also we can get guys like that, that are used to winning and know what it takes to win, just football players, that would help us rebuild this thing.”
Tuck is the second free-agent addition in Oakland, joining offensive lineman Austin Howard, who signed a five-year, $30 million deal. Running back Darren McFadden also agreed to re-sign with the Raiders on a one-year deal worth up to $4 million.
Saffold was expected to be in the mix before the Raiders were scared off because of a shoulder injury and voided the five-year, $42.5 million contract that included $21.5 million in guarantees.
Howard and Saffold were supposed to help anchor a rebuilt offensive line but now Oakland still needs to look for a left tackle to replace the departed Jared Veldheer.
“We were excited about maybe getting the chance to play together,” Howard said. “But that’s the way this business works. He’s a tremendous guy, a tremendous athlete. I believe he really would have fit in well here and we would have been really excited to play together. That’s how it goes. It’s very unfortunate.”
Oakland was burned last offseason by the acquisition of two players with existing injuries.
Quarterback Matt Flynn was acquired despite a shoulder injury and he lacked arm strength before being released early in the season.
Oakland used a first-round pick on cornerback D.J. Hayden, who had a near-fatal heart injury in college. Hayden missed the entire offseason and was limited in training camp because of the injury and struggled his rookie year before a sports hernia injury sidelined him for the season in November.
The Raiders could fill the left tackle void with last year’s second-round pick, Menelik Watson, who played sparingly as a rookie because of injuries, a draft pick or with a second-tier free agent after most of the top available left tackles have signed elsewhere.
Howard, who played exclusively on the right side with the Jets, is willing to play wherever he is needed.
“They understand that I am very familiar with playing right tackle, but this is a league where we need to have the best five guys up front,” he said. “We want to win some games. I have a lot of pride in playing right tackle, but I have even more pride in winning games. Wherever I can help, that’s where I’ll be. I have no problem with that.”
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