We continue our list of the bottom 5 Oakland Raiders free-agent signings in franchise history with return specialist Desmond Howard checking in at No. 3 ...
Howard, the 1991 Heisman Trophy winner out of Michigan, had already played in the NFL for Washington, Jacksonville and Green Bay the previous three seasons when the Raiders gave him a four-year, $6-million contract in March of 1997, less than two months after he was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXI.
Oh sure, Howard was electric for the Packers in beating the New England Patriots, 35-21, for the Lombardi Trophy. He returned four kickoffs for 154 yards, including a 99-yarder for Green Bay’s game-sealing score, and six punts for 90 yards, with a 34-yarder.
But he was never a game-breaking receiver, yet, in 1997 dollars, that’s what the Raiders paid him.
Howard was actually the second straight Super Bowl MVP to be signed by Oakland in as many years (yes, Larry Brown is either No. 1 or No. 2 on this list; stay tuned).
In two seasons with the Raiders, he caught six passes for 46 yards, without a touchdown. And a year after leading the NFL with 58 punt returns for 875 yards and three TDs with the Packers, Howard returned 27 punts for 210 yards, sans a score. He did, though, return an NFL leading 61 kickoffs, for 1,318 yards in 1997.
And in 1998, Howard returned two punts for TDs in Oakland. But a year later, he was gone, back to Green Bay before finishing out his journeyman 11-year career in Detroit.
The Raiders had many issues upon returning to Oakland from Los Angeles and while Howard may not have caused their ship to sink under Joe Bugel, he did not serve as much of a patch for Jon Gruden’s rebuilding project, either.
Top 5 Free agent signings
5. Jerry Rice
4. John Matuszak
3. Rich Gannon
2. George Blanda
1. Jim Plunkett
Bottom 5 Free agent signings
5. Mike Brisiel
4. Aaron Brooks
3. Desmond Howard