The Oakland Raiders have reached agreement with unrestricted free agent fullback Justin Griffith, continuing to address a backfield that was in need of upgrades in quality and depth,
The deal with Griffith, one of the NFL's top fullbacks who played the first four seasons of his career with the Atlanta Falcons, comes in the wake of Friday's addition of former Indianapolis tailback Dominic Rhodes. Griffith figures to be the primary escort now for the tailback tandem of Rhodes and LaMont Jordan and his signing could foreshadow the end of fullback Zack Crockett's long tenure with the Raiders.
Griffith, 25, will sign a three-year contract worth $3.8 million. The deal is contingent upon him passing his physical exam.
In Oakland, he will be reunited with assistant coaches Greg Knapp and Tom Cable on the staff assembled by rookie head coach Lane Kiffin. Knapp was the offensive coordinator in Atlanta for three of Griffith's four seasons there and Cable was the offensive line coach in 2006.
It is believed that both coaches lobbied hard for the addition of Griffith, who is a prototype West Coast offense fullback.
Some league observers were surprised that Atlanta made so little effort to retain Griffith, a two-time Pro Bowl alternate. But under new coach Bobby Petrino, the Falcons wanted a bigger, lead-blocking type fullback for their offense, and they signed former Baltimore starter Ovie Mughelli last week.
Griffith, a former Mississippi State standout, was chosen by the Falcons in the fourth round of the 2003 draft, and earned a starting job as a rookie. He played in 60 games, starting 48 of them in four seasons. Griffith rushed for 378 yards and one touchdown on 81 carries and had 87 catches for 621 yards and nine scores.
Griffith had 20-plus catches every season in Atlanta and was especially effective in "red zone" situations. He can also play tailback in one-back formations.
In addition to Griffith, the Raiders added a pair of journeyman tight ends late Friday, striking deals with Fred Wakefield and Tony Stewart. The former, a onetime defensive lineman, played previously for Arizona. The latter played for Cincinnati and was a special teams standout there.