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Raiders bolster pass rush by signing Tuck, Woodley

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The Canadian Press
3/13/2014 7:07:47 PM
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders got some good news in free agency Thursday, one day after voiding top target Rodger Saffold's contract because of a bad shoulder.

The Raiders signed defensive end Justin Tuck and linebacker LaMarr Woodley to two-year deals in an effort to bolster their pass rush. ESPN reported that Tuck will be paid $11 million and Woodley's deal is worth up to $12 million.

The two pass rushers have combined for 117.5 career sacks, reached double figures in a season seven times and have won three Super Bowl titles in their careers.

Tuck joins the Raiders following nine seasons with the New York Giants during which he helped the team win two Super Bowl titles. Tuck has made two Pro Bowls and has 60.5 career sacks, 20 forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries in 127 career games with New York.

"Last week, I absolutely did not see it coming," Tuck said. "It wasn't necessarily on my radar at that point in time, but everything accelerated pretty quickly, and I'm excited. I really am. I like the direction that this team is talking about going in, and I just want to be a part of it."

Woodley, 29, had 57 sacks in seven seasons in Pittsburgh and helped the Steelers win it all following the 2008 season.

Woodley struggled with injuries the past three seasons but was still an effective rusher when healthy. He ended last season on injured reserve with a calf injury and the Steelers released him because of his high salary.

After averaging 11 sacks per season from 2008-11, Woodley has only nine sacks in 24 games the past two years. He did have eight quarterback hits and 24 hurries and was one of the most efficient pass rushers last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Woodley played linebacker in Pittsburgh's 3-4 defence but is also able to play defensive end in Oakland's four-man front.

The Raiders need help on their pass rush after losing last year's leading sacker and most consistent defender, LaMarr Houston, to Chicago in free agency. The other three starting defensive linemen -- Pat Sims, Vance Walker and Jason Hunter -- are also free agents.

Tuck, who turns 31 this month, was rated as the ninth best pass rushing defensive end by Pro Football Focus last season when he had 11 sacks, 12 quarterback hits and 44 hurries.

Oakland has not had a player reach double figures in sacks since Derrick Burgess and Warren Sapp both did it in 2006.

"Everyone talks about once you turn 30, it's all downhill," Tuck said. "I don't believe in that. I don't look at myself in that regard. I feel like I have a lot of great football left in me."

The Raiders have now made three free-agent additions this week, having previously signed right tackle Austin Howard to a five-year, $30 million deal. Running back Darren McFadden also agreed to re-sign with the Raiders on a one-year deal worth up to $4 million.

Saffold was expected to be in the mix before the Raiders were scared off because of a shoulder injury and voided the five-year, $42.5 million contract that included $21.5 million in guarantees.

Howard and Saffold were supposed to help anchor a rebuilt offensive line but now Oakland still needs to look for a left tackle to replace the departed Jared Veldheer.

"We were excited about maybe getting the chance to play together," Howard said. "But that's the way this business works. He's a tremendous guy, a tremendous athlete. I believe he really would have fit in well here and we would have been really excited to play together. That's how it goes. It's very unfortunate."

Oakland was burned last off-season by the acquisition of two players with existing injuries.

Quarterback Matt Flynn was acquired despite a shoulder injury and he lacked arm strength before being released early in the season.

Oakland used a first-round pick on cornerback D.J. Hayden, who had a near-fatal heart injury in college. Hayden missed the entire off-season and was limited in training camp because of the injury and struggled his rookie year before a sports hernia injury sidelined him for the season in November.

The Raiders could fill the left tackle void with last year's second-round pick, Menelik Watson, who played sparingly as a rookie because of injuries, a draft pick or with a second-tier free agent after most of the top available left tackles have signed elsewhere.

Justin Tuck (Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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