Derrick Johnson signing brings Raiders 'status at a critical position'


Derrick Johnson signing brings Raiders 'status at a critical position'

ALAMEDA – Jon Gruden felt no need to wait for a formal team announcement. He acknowledged the Raiders are signing veteran middle linebacker Derrick Johnson.

The four-time Pro Bowler and long-time Kansas City Chief visited the Raiders on Thursday and agreed on terms Friday morning to strengthen a weak spot, bringing veteran savvy and a tremendous resume to a vital, cerebral position.

Gruden was excited about the addition, especially with someone of Johnson’s track record.

“He brings us status at a critical position,” Gruden said Friday afternoon, following a Raiders rookie minicamp practice. “He has a great history in this league. He has been productive under a lot different coaches, different schemes. He understands the AFC and certainly understands this rivalry. We’re really excited to add him to our team with Tahir Whitehead and some of our young linebackers. I think his presence will really help us.”

Johnson is respected throughout the league as an excellent leader on the field and in the locker room, some one who can diagnose quickly and make sure tackles.

He is 35 years old and will be 36 in November. He looks a bit slower after suffering his Achilles’ tendon tear in 2016 – his second in three years – and there are questions about how much he has left.

The Chiefs terminated his contract this offseason, but he believes he found a good spot in Oakland and a kindred spirit in Gruden.

“We both knew this would raise eyebrows with some people, being I’m the Chiefs’ all-time leading tackler,” Johnson told Yahoo! Sports reporter Terez Paylor. “Yeah, it’s a little different. But I still want to play ball.”

He could play quite a bit in Oakland. The Raiders only have second-year pros Marquel Lee and Nicholas Morrow earmarked for the middle linebacker spot – Whitehead can play there, too – and Johnson could still be the three-down staple he was over so many years in Kansas City.

The Raiders tried to re-sign NaVorro Bowman, but haven’t been able to agree on financial compensation. The Johnson signing – Paylor reports the deal could be worth up to $3 million – seems to eliminate the prospect of Bowman’s return. Gruden cautioned against that line of thinking.

“I wouldn’t assume anything,” Gruden said. “We’ve made a lot of moves, and that means we’ll probably make more moves in the coming days. We just want to get better. There’s a sense of urgency to do that. We’ve added some young defensive tackles and some linemen. Getting someone like Derrick Johnson could be huge for us.”

Johnson plans to lead and contribute to his new team.

“I believe I can still play at a high level, and for me, my family and my legacy, I’m trying to figure out how can I chase that ring,” Johnson said. “Even though it’s a rival team, this is my best opportunity to chase a dream and play an important role. I have to go somewhere where there’s a plan for me, and that’s the Oakland Raiders.”

Raiders' Eddie Vanderdoes done for the year, staying on PUP list

Raiders' Eddie Vanderdoes done for the year, staying on PUP list

ALAMEDA -- Raiders defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes hasn’t played a lick this season while rehabbing from offseason surgery to repair his ACL, but he had an opportunity to join the active roster Monday.

The Raiders declined to do so, and Vanderdoes remained on the reserve/physically unable to perform (PUP) list. He has been there since the start of training camp. The Raiders started a 21-day practice window in Week 8, but Vanderdoes didn’t make the progress required to join the 53-man roster.

The Silver and Black is playing it safe with someone they consider a solid scheme fit, and who may be able to help them in 2019. This season, by contrast, is already down the drain, and there is no sense in rushing him back.

“We had a chance to look at him for a couple weeks and although he has made progress he has had a couple injuries to the knee in his background,” Raiders coach Gruden said, referring to two torn knee ligaments during Vanderdoes' time at UCLA. “We want to make sure that we give him the proper time to get ready. We are going to be very precautionary with him. I believe his season will end unfortunately, but it’s the right thing to do for him and his future.”

The 24-year-old was expected back this season, but suffered a setback in training camp that slowed his recovery timetable. He didn’t have enough padded practices to be thrust into games, so the Raiders stepped off the gas and ended his season.

Vanderdoes tore his ACL in the 2017 regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Chargers, awful timing for a young prospect known as a stout run defender. 

[RELATED: Raiders' receiver corps razor thin with Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant injuries]

[RATTO: Raiders owner Mark Davis is just poking the rubble by taking the blame now]

Raiders' receiver corps razor thin with Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant injuries


Raiders' receiver corps razor thin with Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant injuries

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders' receiving corps will look much different now than it did just a few weeks back. The Silver and Black rolled into a Week 6 game against the Seattle Seahawks with Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant featured in the pattern.

It’s possible, maybe even likely, that none of those guys will be available for next week’s game at Arizona.

Cooper obviously is unavailable, as he's now a featured player in Dallas after being traded to the Cowboys.

Bryant suffered an injury to his posterior cruciate ligament in Sunday’s loss to the L.A. Chargers, Raiders coach Jon Gruden said, and will miss significant time.

Nelson has a knee injury that will be examined further this week, with a real prospect of him missing time.

That leaves Brandon LaFell, Seth Roberts, Dwayne Harris and seventh-round draft pick Marcell Ateman as Raiders receivers heading into the Cardinals game.

That’s a far less dynamic crew.

“It’s tough, obviously, with Amari gone and Martavis out. Jordy out,” Gruden said in a Monday press conference said. "We will knock on Marcell Ateman’s door and perhaps give him an opportunity to step forward. We will bring in some receivers to work out tomorrow, and if we need to make a roster spot, we will.”

Ateman was promoted from the practice squad on Oct. 22, but he has been inactive each week. The Oklahoma State product will make his NFL debut if Nelson can’t go against the Cardinals.