ALAMEDA – Rodney Hudson got a pretty penny to play for the Raiders. Quite a few of them, actually.
Hudson signed a five-year, $44.5-million contract with $20 million guaranteed, record compensation for an NFL center. For all that coin, Hudson better be good. That’s what makes offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s Hudson assessment so powerful.
“Rodney’s done a terrific job. He’s been more than what we anticipated,” Musgrave said after Thursday’s mandatory minicamp practice. “He has better movement than I think we expected from our film study and from watching from the other sideline. He’s done a great job of pulling. Guards and tackles pull a bunch in our system, but the center needs to at times, and he’s able to do that.”
Hudson is an athletic presence at center, with a sky-high football IQ that will help quarterback Derek Carr make in-game checks. Hudson may not be the best known center in the game – Alex Mack or the Pouncey brothers would win a popularity contest – but at age 25 is an emerging talent with his best football in the future.
“I think he’s a rising star at the O-line position, at the center position,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I’ve competed against him a couple of times in the last couple of years. I have a lot of respect for his abilities as a player and I think he’s going to fit in great with what we want to do with our center.”
The Raiders will run with power and at times play with tempo. Hudson is a solid fit for both styles.
“I’ve been in three or four systems in my career, so I’m used to learning something new,” Hudson said. “It’s going good, but every day is a learning experience. We’re taking it in stride as an offensive line and learning more every day.
“It’s a fun group and a good mix of older and younger guys. There’s experience to help everyone out. The mood is very upbeat. We have guys with a ton of energy who bring some life to the room.”
While general manager Reggie McKenzie’s biggest free-agent signing isn’t as sexy as a receiver or an edge rusher, the team is happy to have such a valuable piece, even one without stats to support that claim.
Hudson made a solid impression throughout the offseason program, which ended with Thursday’s minicamp finale. It’s clear he fits the scheme and the team vibe.
“He is a jokester just like us,” left tackle Donald Penn said last week. “(Khalif Barnes) and I, we stay on him. We go back and forth, but he is a great athlete. He is going to be big for us in that middle. He is putting us in the right spot. He is great in space. When he gets out there in space, he is great. He is very athletic. He is a big part of this offensive line. I am happy to have him. He has been a very underrated player.
“Watching him out here, I am like, ‘Oh, you’re worth every penny you got.’ He is a very good penny, so I am looking forward to it. He is going to man that middle and we’re going to follow his lead.”