OAKLAND, Calif. -- Running back Justin Fargas agreed to a new contact with the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday instead of testing the market as a free agent.
Bringing back Fargas had been a priority this offseason for the Raiders. He is coming off his first career 1,000-yard rushing performance last season despite starting only seven games. He began the year as the backup to LaMont Jordan and missed the final two games of the season with a sprained MCL in his right knee.
But he excelled when he got playing time, topping 100 yards four times last season, including gaining a season-high 179 as a backup against the Miami Dolphins. His 676 yards rushing in his seven starts were the second most in the NFL in that span, trailing only San Diego's LaDanian Tomlinson (694).
Fargas finished the season with 1,009 yards on 222 rushes for an average of 4.5 yards per carry. He also ran for four touchdowns.
Fargas became the first player to lead Oakland in rushing for consecutive years since Charlie Garner in 2001-02. He finished with 659 yards rushing in 2006 when Jordan missed the final six games with a knee injury.
He had only 80 carries his first three seasons in the NFL, spending much of the time on the bench before getting his chance the past two seasons.
By keeping Fargas, the Raiders would be unlikely to draft running back Darren McFadden of Arkansas in the April draft. Oakland will have either the third or fourth overall pick, pending a coin flip with Atlanta, and could have been interested in McFadden if they were looking for a starting running back.
Fargas is expected to go into next season as the starter. The Raiders still must decide whether to keep Jordan and Dominic Rhodes for next season or choose to save money by releasing or trading them. Oakland also is expecting to get a contribution in 2008 from Michael Bush, who missed his entire rookie season while recovering from a broken leg.
Oakland's most prominent free agent is cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who is expected to be designated as the team's franchise player if he does not sign a long-term deal. As a franchise player, Asomugha would be guaranteed $9.465 million in 2008. If Asomugha signed with another team, Oakland would have the chance to match the contract or receive two first-round draft picks as compensation.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press