The free-agent signing period doesn't get under way until March 2 but already one of the most coveted offensive playmakers is off the market.
Wide receiver Jerry Porter, a five-year veteran who would have been among the top unrestricted players at his position, signed a multi-year contract extension Tuesday that will keep him with the Oakland Raiders, ESPN.com has learned.
The contract is for five years but automatically voids to three seasons. The three-year value can be as much as $15 million and the contract includes $10 million in guarantees. Negotiations had accelerated in recent days as the Raiders made the retention of Porter a priority.
Porter a few weeks ago rejected the Raiders' proposal for a five-year, $20 million deal.
Because he had achieved certain performance levels, Porter had the right to void the 2005 portion of his existing contract and he said last week that was his intention. But Porter is a big part of the Raiders' vertical passing game, a player who starting quarterback Kerry Collins had urged the franchise to keep, and Oakland management realized that he would have been a hot commodity in the free agent pool.
The agreement with Porter means that the Raiders, for the second consecutive year, will designate cornerback Charles Woodson as a "franchise" player. Club officials had toyed with the idea of applying the "franchise" marker to Porter, but the new accord makes that a moot point. It will cost the Raiders $10.529 million for the one-year qualifying offer that accompanies the Woodson "franchise" tag.
Porter, 26, enjoyed a breakout season in 2004, posting career bests in receptions (64) and receiving yards (998) and tying his career high with nine touchdown catches. The former West Virginia University standout, a second-round choice in the 2000 draft, also had 17 receptions of 20 or more yards.
Although he started the '04 campaign slowly, with just one touchdown catch in the first 10 outings of the season, Porter came on strong, particularly after developing a rapport with Collins, an excellent deep thrower.
Porter had eight touchdown catches in the final six games, including two contests with three touchdown grabs each, and averaged 18.3 yards per catch in that stretch. His season included three 100-yard outings.
In 69 career appearances, and 32 starts, Porter has 163 receptions for 2,273 yards and 19 touchdown passes. His ratio of one touchdown catch per every 8.6 receptions is one of the best in the NFL over the past five years. Porter's average yards per reception also has increased every season of his career.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.