Originally written on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 11/19/14

It appeared to be a Raider Nation Holiday when Reggie McKenzie managed to bring Charles Woodson in for a visit and managed to sign him back with the Silver & Black. One of the most coveted and successful Al Davis draft picks still in the NFL, almost 200 Raider fans showed up to the facility to welcome Charles Woodson back home. Fans were out there as early as 10am, as the team was in the middle of OTAs; the fans showed the entire roster love as they exited the facility. Some players like FB Marcel Reece, DE Lamarr Houston, LB Sio Moore LT Jared Veldheer and a bunch of others got out of their car and showed the die-hard fans their appreciation by signing autographs and taking pictures. QB Terrelle Pryor even brought the exhausted fans bottles of water, as they were out there for almost twelve hours. The eight-time Pro Bowler and 2009 Defensive Player of the Year Woodson signed a one-year deal worth up to $4.3 million with a $700,000 signing bonus. Some people think the Raiders went a bit out of their means in signing the 36-year-old future Hall of Famer, while others, like ESPN’s Bill Williamson considers it a “gift to Raider fans,” as the last decade hasn’t been very pleasant in Oakland. As Woodson is back in the Silver & Black, he is booked as the starting Free Safety, which means this will be his first full season as a starting safety, rather than Corner. 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However, make no mistake that Raiders Defensive Coordinator will move Woodson all around the field, at nickel cornerback, sometimes on the outside at CB and even as a blitzing LB. But with Woodson as the starting FS, he is replacing the guy who wore his number after his departure, former seventh overall pick FS Michael Huff. The 30 year-old Huff spent eight years in Oakland, and was cut this past offseason, signing a contract with the Baltimore Ravens. Oakland’s secondary was depleted in 2012, so bad that Huff, who had not played cornerback since college, was forced to fill the void and did whatever the organization asked of him. Huff had a couple of rough weeks against the likes of Peyton Manning in Denver, and his attempt to cover Vincent Jackson when Tampa Bay came to Oakland. He did, however stand his ground and improve weekly, having decent outings against New Orleans, Atlanta and Kansas City. As Michael Huff is six years younger than Woodson, not as talented as him at cornerback, but a decent FS when playing centerfield, the question had to be brought up; should Oakland have kept Huff and not signed Woodson? Just as some Houston spectators had to wonder if it was a bad move in signing Ed Reed and letting Glover Quin walk, some Oakland observers have to wonder if Huff should have been brought back, rather than signing Woodson. When looking at the situation, the first thing in the way of Oakland (as has been for the last 5 years or so) is their salary cap situation. Woodson’s $4.3 million contract might seem a bit excessive for a 36 year old, but most of that cap is incentives based off performance. Michael Huff was due a preposterous $11,288,750, per former sports agent Joel Corry of the National Football Post. That being said, to cut Huff and save money that will allow you to sign multiple players, including a Hall of Famer, was probably the flexibility needed to consider cutting Huff. Rather than cutting Michael Huff, should Mckenzie and co. considered asking Huff to take a pay cut, which he did years ago for Al Davis, with hopes of staying with the team? Not sure if Huff was comfortable with having his contract renegotiated or taking a pay cut for the organization for a second time, but it might have been worth trying before cutting him (same goes for WR Darrius Heyward-Bey). The signing of Charles Woodson does more than just give Oakland a veteran presence on and off the field. Woodson was a mentor for almost the entire Green Bay Packer team the year they won the Super Bowl. Young guys like SS Tyvon Branch and rookie CB DJ Hayden could use a guy like Woodson to teach them the small things that matter, that they might not have learned on their own. He had a rough background in his first stint with the Raiders, as he was doing a lot of partying, rumors surfaced that he used to be late to meetings, and the worse of them all, he was often injured. As Green Bay was the only team who offered Woodson a contract after he was cut by Oakland, he got his act together and became the person we thought he was who won the 1998 Heisman Trophy. Signing Charles Woodson also means more jersey sales. When Woodson was first with Oakland, he and Michael Vick had the most popular jersey sales for multiple years. The fact that he is back in Oakland, those who might have thrown their old #24 jersey or grown out of it will more than likely be out purchasing another Woodson jersey, pending if Tracy Porter is willing to give him #24. As Woodson joked with the NFL Network that he doesn’t think Raider Nation will accept him “without his #24 jersey,” that was blasphemy. Raider Nation has been known as some of the most passionate, dedicated fan bases and the Raiders have a nationwide following. It isn’t C.W. who the fans will have a hard time accepting, it is Tracy Porter. However, he is a part of the team, and the ultimate goal is winning. “Just Win, Baby” is the mindset in Oakland, so rather Woodson gets his number back or not should be a small concern. Charles Woodson had unanimously the best season of his illustrious career at age 33 in 2009 when he won Defensive Player of the Year. In that season, he tallied 74 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 9 interceptions, 18 passes defensed and 3 touchdowns. Michael Huff’s best season came at age 27 in 2010 under defensive coordinator John Marshall where he registered 94 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 7 passes defensed and 3 interceptions. It almost isn’t close who had the best year, given Woodson’s five more INTs and 11 more passed defensed. However, for a team (Oakland in 2010) who couldn’t stop the run and were average at best against the pass, Huff had an exceptional season. Being that Woodson was 33 when he reached his pinnacle tells me that we might have not seen the absolute best of Michael Huff yet. Baltimore will use him solely as an FS, who will occasionally blitz and cover TEs/RBs. The dire depth Oakland had the previous two seasons at CB was detrimental to Huff’s potential. Granted, he did not complain and withstood the challenge, if he was in his realm the past two seasons as he was in 2010, one can make the argument that the Raiders should have considered asking Huff to take a pay cut before cutting him while he was at home watching the movie Friday (as he jokingly tweeted via his twitter account). via raidersgab.com This Raiders’ depth in the secondary would have tremendously benefited Michael Huff. It is presumably impossible that all the corners currently on the roster will make the team, but the fact that Oakland has a slew of guys at the position who could make the 53-man roster means Huff would not have had to worry about moving to corner, given depth. Tracy Porter, Mike Jenkins, DJ Hayden, Phillip Adams, Joselio Hansen and Chimdi Chekwa are all serviceable guys who could potentially make the team. If, say two out of the group temporarily went down to injuries, a la Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell last season, Huff would still be in good company. But with Woodson as the starting FS, it was smart for the organization to sign Usama Young as well, who has experience as a starting FS with the New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns. With Young on the team and Woodson’s versatility, DC Jason Tarver can dial up more packages and move Woodson around as much as he wants, which is probably the best way to use the veteran, as he has constantly proven he can do anything on defense. It remains to be said how Woodson will be used, but it is also obvious. Huff probably can’t do everything Woodson can in the box, but it remains to be seen if Woodson is a better FS than Huff, so one could conceivably say those two variables even each other out. But unless the entire Raiders defense comes together as a unit and can put pressure on opposing QBs, as well as make an impact at stopping the run, the signing of Charles Woodson becomes a bit insignificant, if the defense can’t manage to give the offense a chance at winning. The 2012 Raiders defense was 13th against the pass and 15th against the rush, while also giving up almost 28 points per game. The upgrade at LB and in the secondary were huge for Oakland, but they still lack impact at DE and inside at DT. Woodson is a huge impact against both the run and the pass. Maybe he was an upgrade over Huff; maybe his age and short contract were a disadvantage in not retaining Huff. Woodson’s health along with DC Tarver’s schemes will be the ultimate factors in determining if Oakland should have kept Huff or not. Midway through the season, we will reexamine Oakland’s defense and see if Oakland benefited by cutting Huff and signing Woodson. -Johnson

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