ALAMEDA — The Oakland Raiders reached a deal with another blocking tight end, agreeing on a three-year contract to retain Lee Smith on Wednesday.
A person familiar with the deal confirmed the agreement reached on the first day of the new league year. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the signing hadn’t been announced by the team. NFL Network first reported the deal.
The Raiders also were trying to lure former Green Bay star receiver Jordy Nelson, a day after he was released by the Packers. Nelson visited the team facility and Oakland hoped to get him to agree to a contract before leaving.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie worked in the Green Bay front office when Nelson was drafted in 2008, and Oakland wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett is a former receivers coach and offensive coordinator with the Packers.
Nelson made the Pro Bowl in 2014 and won AP Comeback Player of the Year in 2016 when he led the league with 14 touchdown catches a year after missing the entire season with a right knee injury.
The 32-year-old Nelson struggled last season with 53 catches for 482 yards and six TDs, recording a career-low 9.1 yards per reception as Aaron Rodgers missed more than half the year with injuries.
Nelson had four 1,000-yard seasons in Green Bay, including 1,519 yards on 98 catches in 2014. In 136 career games, he has 550 catches for 7,848 yards and 69 TDs.
Nelson has experience playing outside, as well as in the slot, and his addition could impact whether Michael Crabtree comes back for a fourth season in Oakland.
Crabtree has a $7.7 million cap hit this season but can be cut without dead money.
The Raiders agreed to a three-year contract earlier this week with free agent Derek Carrier, a second person familiar with the deal said on Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the contract hadn’t been announced.
Smith joined Oakland originally as a free agent in 2015 and has been a strong run blocker in his three years with the team. He played 35 games, missing most of the 2016 season with a leg injury. He has 26 catches for 175 yards and one touchdown with the Raiders.
The Raiders have several major holes they will look to fill in free agency starting this week as they try to rebound from a disappointing six-win season that led to the firing of coach Jack Del Rio and the move to bring Jon Gruden back for a second stint as coach.
The most glaring spots for the Raiders are on defense, where Oakland will be seeking a starting cornerback to pair with last year’s first-round pick Gareon Conley. They must also decide whether to bring back middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman as a free agent or find a replacement elsewhere, and they need to upgrade the pass rush, especially at defensive tackle.
The Raiders also will likely be in the market for a possible replacement for released former starting right tackle Marshall Newhouse, and a running back if they decide not to bring Marshawn Lynch back for a second season.
The Raiders tendered offers to all five exclusive rights free agents: LB Shilique Calhoun, LB James Cowser, S Erik Harris, OL Denver Kirkland, K Giorgio Tavecchio.
Raiders lose Carrie to Browns
TJ Carrie started 15 games for the Raiders last season, but he’s headed to the Cleveland Browns for 2018, according to multiple reports.
According to NFL insider Adam Caplan, Carrie’s deal is for four years and $31 million with $10 million guaranteed at signing and $15.5 million in total guarantees. The Raiders assuredly weren’t touching that price range to bring Carrie back, even if he was arguably their most consistent cornerback in 2017.
Carrie’s 2017 base salary was around $1.8 million. He played the most defensive snaps of anyone on the team not named Reggie Nelson last season. Carrie was a seventh-round pick by Oakland in the 2014 draft that brought Khalil Mack, Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson to the Bay Area. In four years with the Raiders, he played 60 games (started 36), grabbed three interceptions, forced three fumbles and recorded 168 tackles.
Carrie is returning close to where he attended college at Ohio University. With his departure, the Raiders will now be without three cornerbacks in 2018 who started games for them in 2017 — Carrie, Sean Smith and David Amerson. The cornerbacks left on Oakland’s roster are Gareon Conley, Dexter McDonald and Antonio Hamilton. Clearly, Reggie McKenzie and Jon Gruden have additions to make at the position.
Former Raiders defensive lineman Denico Autry will sign with the Indianapolis Colts on a three-year deal worth $17.8 million with $6.5 million guaranteed, per NFL Network. Autry was an underrated piece of Oakland’s defense in 2017, tallying five sacks and seven passes defended. Over his four years with the Raiders, Autry played in 56 games (started 18) with 10.5 sacks and 12 passes defended to go along with 74 tackles.
— San Jose Mercury News