ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) 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 and linebacker LaMarr Woodley to two-year deals in an effort to bolster their pass rush. ESPN reported that Tuck will be paid $11 million and Woodley’s deal is worth up to $12 million.
The two pass rushers have combined for 117 1/2 career sacks, reached double figures in a season seven times and have won three Super Bowl titles in their careers.
”We know what it’s like to be on a winning team, and we know what it takes to get there,” Woodley said. ”I think that we’re both proven guys, had some injuries here and there that slowed us up, but when we’re 100 percent out there on the football field, we bring it.”
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 had 60 1/2 sacks, 20 forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries in 127 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.”
Woodley, 29, had 57 sacks in seven seasons in Pittsburgh and helped the Steelers win it all following the 2008 season.
Woodley struggled with injuries the past three seasons but was still an effective rusher when healthy. He ended last season on injured reserve with a calf injury and the Steelers released him because of his high salary.
After averaging 11 sacks per season from 2008-11, Woodley has only nine sacks in 24 games the past two years. He did have eight quarterback hits and 24 hurries and was one of the most efficient pass rushers last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Woodley played linebacker in Pittsburgh but will play defensive end in Oakland’s four-man front.
”I don’t feel like it’s any different than playing a 3-4 outside linebacker, where you are still kind of the defensive end,” Woodley said. ”The only thing about the 3-4 scheme is that you are asked to drop back and cover receivers and you are standing up rushing. You still have to play the run, you still have to get after the quarterback, and that’s no different from a 4-3 end.”
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 have now made three free-agent additions this week, having previously signed right tackle Austin Howard to 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. On Thursday, the St. Louis Rams re-signed Saffold.
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.
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