Raiders add Jones, count on him to guide young receivers
ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Oakland Raiders added a veteran presence to their young receiving group by signing free agent James Jones to a three-year contract Monday.
Oakland also signed former New York Giants offensive lineman Kevin Boothe to a two-year deal. Boothe began his career with the Raiders in 2006 before spending the past seven seasons with the Giants, where he won two Super Bowl titles.
Jones, who turns 30 later this month, brings a playoff pedigree and proven pass-catching ability to a position whose most experienced player currently under contract is inconsistent three-year veteran Denarius Moore.
”We have a lot of young receivers,” Jones said. ”I’ve been in the game for a minute, so I’ll be able to help those guys out leadership-wise. Other than that, just doing what I do on the football field, making some plays, and hopefully I can give the offense a spark.”
General manager Reggie McKenzie once again reached back to his past in Green Bay’s front office to add a piece to the Raiders. Among the many other former Packers that McKenzie has brought in since taking over as general manager in 2012 are Charles Woodson and Matt Flynn.
Jones said he has been talking to the Raiders the past few days and was lured to Oakland by McKenzie’s vision for a franchise that has not made the playoffs since 2002.
”The way he runs his team the GM way is the kind of way I play out on the football field; just hungry and trying to be the best, and that’s how Reggie is,” Jones said. ”I’m excited to play for Reggie and hopefully we can turn this thing around.”
Jones has 310 career catches for 4,305 yards and 37 touchdowns in 104 games over seven seasons in Green Bay. His most productive year came in 2012 when he had 64 catches for 784 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Jones had 59 catches for a career-high 817 yards and three scores last season despite being without star quarterback Aaron Rodgers for seven games.
But after playing with Rodgers and Brett Favre his first seven seasons, Jones now joins a team with uncertainty at quarterback. Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin return after splitting most of the time last season but Oakland still is searching for its starter and will likely add more quarterbacks either through free agency or the draft.
”Aaron is one of a kind. He’s a special player,” Jones said. ”Whoever we put behind center here, I am going to do the same thing I did for Aaron — just run every route to win, be as open as I can to help whoever is back there and to get this offense rolling.”
The deal is a homecoming for Jones, who was born in San Jose and played college ball at San Jose State. Jones overcame many obstacles on his journey to the NFL, having been in and out of homeless shelters for much of his childhood.
The Raiders have been lacking a veteran presence at receiver for years. Their top receiver last year was Rod Streater, a former undrafted free agent who led the team with 60 catches for 888 yards in his second pro season.
The other key receivers on the roster include Moore, who has shown flashes of stardom in three seasons, and Andre Holmes, who had 22 catches for 366 yards and a touchdown over the final five games in 2013.
Boothe has started 32 games the past two seasons and has started at both guard positions and center in his career. He was a starter when the Giants won the Super Bowl following the 2011 season and a reserve on their title team four years earlier.
Boothe joins right tackle Austin Howard as additions on a line that lost starting left tackle Jared Veldheer to free agency.
”I like the direction of the team,” Boothe said. ”They’ve put some pieces together here and it’s a great culture that they’re building over here, and I am excited to be a part of it. The fact that I have been here before, obviously, this place has always held a special place in my heart as the team that drafted me.”
McKenzie has placed a premium on acquiring players with winning experience so far this offseason. Six of the seven free-agent additions to Oakland’s roster over the past week have played in a Super Bowl, with Jones, Boothe and defensive linemen Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley having won it all in previous stops.