- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Charles Woodson had gone through the humbling experience of free agency twice before, following the 2005 season and after the 2012 campaign.
This time, though, felt different for the Oakland Raiders veteran, who is entering his 17th NFL season.
"It dragged on a little longer than I wanted it to in the offseason," Woodson said last week at the start of Oakland's second organized team activity. "I wanted to get something done right away but, of course, every team has their priorities, and I respect what they did in the offseason and the moves that they made prior to me signing again.
"I was getting a little bit nervous sitting at home trying to figure out what was going to happen, because the reality was, if it didn't happen here, that could have been it."
As in: If the Raiders had not offered a contract to Woodson's liking, his likely Hall of Fame career "could" have been over, especially because no one else had come calling.
Instead, on March 21, he signed a reported one-year, $2.5 million deal to return for Year 1 of the Raiders' reconstruction.
"We're excited about having 'Wood' back," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "I think he brings a lot to the table. I think after having him for one year, we have a better feel for him, what he can really do well, and how we can put him in position to make plays."
Woodson, who turns 38 on Oct. 7, made the transition to free safety last season and played a full 16-game season for the first time since 2010, when he was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the Green Bay Packers.
In 2013, he had 1 interception, 2 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and recovered a pair of fumbles, including a 25-yard return for a touchdown against the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 6. It was his 13th career defensive score, which tied him with Rod Woodson and Darren Sharper for most in NFL history.
And yet, in late November, with Oakland in the midst of a season-ending six-game losing streak, Woodson began speaking of the 2014 Raiders as "they," as if he were distancing himself from them. Woodson backtracked toward the end of the season, though, saying he wanted to return.
But first, as he noted, the Raiders went on their free-agent shopping spree, locking up the likes of Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith and Tarell Brown on the defensive side of the ball before turning their attention to Woodson.
"Bringing in guys like Tuck, bringing in guys like Woodley, those are guys that know how to win and know how to play the game of football," Woodson said.
"They've won. They've won in this league and they've won the big one. Having guys out there like that, you have leaders on the team that guys can follow, and that's going to be important for us, so I feel really good about it."
Woodson, who played in a Super Bowl with the Raiders in 2003, won a ring with the Packers in 2011 and is open to playing beyond this season, was asked what he saw as the ceiling for Oakland in 2014.
"There isn't a ceiling; we're trying to bust through the ceiling," he said. "I look at the team and I feel like I have what I need from a team standpoint to get all the way there.
"Now, does that happen? Nobody knows until the time comes. But we have players in there. And if we all focus in, all our goals at the end of the season will be there."