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Under most circumstances, it speaks poorly of a team's prospects when the highlight of its offseason is signing a 36-year-old defensive back.

The rare exception revealed itself Tuesday, when the Raiders signed Charles Woodson to a one-year contract.

That the team is Oakland, and the player is Woodson, makes it a compelling, eyebrow-raising story for both.

The move is absolutely right for the Raiders and, probably, for Woodson.

Yes, there is the business of it all, the money that will exchange hands. The Raiders reportedly found upwards of $4 million to give Woodson for one year of work. It's a healthy contract for a man in his situation.

Money does indeed have a voice.

Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson reacts after sacking Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman during an NFL football game Sunday, Nov.
Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson reacts after sacking Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman during an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)

And, yes, there is the sentimental component of Woodson returning to the franchise that drafted him fourth overall in 1998. Even though he rarely made a full commitment, he surely was one of the best players to come through Oakland during eight seasons in town. He liked it here and, in retrospect, realizes how much better he could have been if he had applied himself as he did later in Green Bay.

Heartstrings do indeed have influence.

But the Woodson signing is, above all, about general manager Reggie McKenzie trying to further establish himself as a respected and influential NFL executive -- and make a transparent effort to implement his long-term vision.


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McKenzie needs Woodson as a player and a leader and a teacher. Oakland's secondary last season, McKenzie's first on the job, was a disaster. The cornerbacks were either injured or handing out touchdowns. Michael Huff, a decent safety, was pressed into service as a corner. Safety Tyvon Branch, usually solid, was maddeningly inconsistent.

Woodson, even at 80 percent of what he was two years ago, immediately becomes the best player among Oakland's back seven on defense. And he's still among the smartest, bravest, most instinctive players in the game.

C-Wood's presence at corner or safety or even linebacker -- and he should take turns lining up at all three - will make Jason Tarver a better defensive coordinator and Dennis Allen a better head coach.

All of which would make McKenzie, who cultivated a relationship with Woodson when both were in Green Bay, a better GM.

What's left to determine, though, is exactly how much game Woodson has left. Can he be a three-down player? Is he a two-down player? Can he still cover the bigger receivers, if not the fastest receivers?

Can he stay healthy?

There are numerous reasons why Woodson opted for Oakland, from completing the circle to trusting McKenzie, from the handsome contract to his nearby winery, from knowing he could make a difference as a Raider to wondering if he could as a Bronco or a Giant or a Detroit Lion.




Implying Woodson returned largely because his Raiders passion never went away makes a nice story, if it were not so inaccurate. Though he told friends of his fondness for the area, he likely would not have looked at Oakland if not for the presence of McKenzie and the ambitions of the GM.

When last we saw Woodson, he was chasing Colin Kaepernick as the 49ers quarterback raced into the end zone in an NFC Divisional Playoff game at Candlestick Park. That C-Wood lost ground in pursuit was a statement. He has lost a step, maybe two.

But when you're the Raiders and you're a GM needing help, any help, this is the kind of risk you have to take. Really, it's a no-brainer move.

Woodson is a crafty veteran out to prove he still can play quality football. McKenzie and the Raiders are in no position to assume he can't.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/1montepoole.