The Oakland Raiders have reportedly agreed a deal to sign ace kick returner Josh Cribbs. ProFootballTalk.com reports that the former Cleveland Browns special teams standout has decided to accept an offer to join the Silver and Black.
The move gives the Raiders a major boost on special teams and a versatile weapon for their sub-packages on offense. In particular, Cribbs should be able to help out on third downs.
However, his true value is likely to be in the return game. The 29-year-old has excelled returning kickoffs and punts, since entering the NFL in 2005. He was not quite at his best in 2012, but still produced 1,178 yards on kickoff returns. He also chipped in with 457 yards on punt returns.
The Raiders frankly need Cribbs to again dominate in the return game. He can help win the field position battle, for a team in complete rebuild mode on both sides of the ball. The offense is not expected to be lighting up scoreboards in 2013.
If Cribbs can use his acceleration, quick cuts and noted toughness to produce lengthy returns, he will give a struggling unit plenty of short fields to work from. With Matt Flynn now under center, the Raiders may well need that help.
However, Cribbs won't be content simply weaving past tacklers on special teams duty. When he was in Cleveland he often pushed for more playing time at wide receiver. Despite his best efforts, the former Kent State star never topped 518 yards as a pass-catcher.
Where he worked best on offense was from Wildcat looks. Cribbs is a dynamic runner in the open field and poses a major threat whenever he gets his hands on a direct snap.
That's the kind of wrinkle the Raiders will need to try and scheme some big gains this season. There have been some concerns about Cribbs' knee, after he underwent surgery at the end of the season.
However, Raiders head coach Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie are obviously sufficiently satisfied Cribbs is healthy enough to get back to his best. The eight-year pro is joining a struggling team, but never dropped his performance and effort levels when the Browns found wins hard to come by.
As a difference-maker on special teams, Cribbs could prove to be a smart, low-key signing for the rebuilding Raiders.