The receiver seemed to have a one-way ticket out of Oakland before Jack Del Rio was fired minutes after the Raiders’ season-ending loss at the Los Angeles Chargers last weekend. Crabtree’s frustration was palpable in the locker room that day.
“If I react, then I’m a bad guy, you know what I’m saying?” Crabtree said at the time.
“I do everything I’m supposed to do. I play 60 minutes every time we play. Game winners after game winners. I do everything they ask of me [but] these last two games, and I’ve probably had three targets. But nobody is saying anything about that, but it’s all good. I’m going to keep working hard, man, and be me.”
Crabtree, who had been quarterback Derek Carr’s security blanket until the wheels fell off the Raiders' offense this season, had a point.
In Oakland’ final two games -- at the Philadelphia Eagles and at the Chargers -- Crabtree was targeted five times total and had two catches for 18 yards. This after he was targeted 13 times at the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 14 and 17 times against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15.
And yet ...
Crabtree might have lost the trust of Carr and the coaching staff with a series of drops late in the season, perhaps none bigger than the one he had at the goal line in Philadelphia in the third quarter of a 7-7 game.
Plus, there was his fight with Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib in Week 12, for which Crabtree served a one-game suspension. Although Raiders players publicly said they understood why Crabtree went after the chain-snatching Talib, many observers thought it was a selfish act.
Crabtree’s frustration was reminiscent of his last season with the San Francisco 49ers in 2014, when he mockingly referred to himself as a “third-down receiver ... third option ... fourth option.”
It all leads to the notion Crabtree is a good player on a good team, but on a not-so-good team, well ...
Even as Raiders owner Mark Davis made a point to talk to Crabtree on the sideline during pregame warm-ups prior to the season finale.
Crabtree, who turns 31 in September, signed a four-year, $34 million contract extension with Oakland on Dec. 9, 2015. While he is due base salaries of $7 million in 2018 and $7.5 million in 2019, there would be no dead money for the Raiders should they choose to cut him, per ESPN Stats & Information. Plus, Oakland would save $7.75 million against the salary cap with such a move (the Raiders are currently estimated to have $18 million in cap space, 22nd-most in the NFL).
Gruden is not known to suffer with players he deems not worth the trouble, no matter how big the name or the contract.
“They only want me to play 10 plays, I’ll play 10 plays,” Crabtree said. “The season is over now. Ain’t nothing I can do about it, you know?
“I wasn’t in the game plan. So I did what I was supposed to do. Every time I went in, I did my job.”
Will he still have one in Oakland under Gruden?