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Fins’ investment in Grove a gamble

UPDATES WITH PEARS, FOWLER NEWS

Jake Grove did an admirable job coming back from microfracture knee surgery to reclaim the job as the starting center for the Raiders.

Chances are he couldn’t have imagined all his hard work would pay off so handsomely. According to the NFL Network, Grove signed a a five-year contract with the Miami Dolphins which guarantees him $14.5 million.

There was no chance the Raiders were going to come up with that kind of coin. And considering they have a better idea about his physical issues than Miami, it was the sensible move.

Grove is a smallish (by NFL standards) but tenacious center who will find the going rough against difficult matchups in the AFC East.

The Raiders thought him better than John Wade, the man they signed to be the center when they were rightfully concerned about Grove’s physical condition.

Wade remains under contract with a salary of $1.5 million this season, and the Raiders can go about the business of finding their center of the future.

Fact is, Grove missed 26 of 80 games because of injury since joining the Raiders in 2004 and played in 19 of 32 the past two years.

Cal center Alex Mack is one of the most highly regarded centers in the country, and the Raiders have a wealth of inside information on him courtesy of line coach Jim Michalczik, his position coach in Berkeley.

At No. 7 overall, the Raiders may be picking too soon to take Mack. Another local center, Stanford’s Alex Fletcher, has a background in zone blocking and would be available later.

The NFL Network is also reporting the Raiders are hosting two Seattle free agents, quarterback Charlie Frye and right tackle Ray Willis.

Frye is a lot like Bruce Gradkowski, a player with some NFL starting experience who would vie for a spot on the roster to back up JaMarcus Russell. Willis, 6-foot-6, 315 pounds out of Florida State, saw his most extensive time in 2008, playing in 16 games with 10 starts.

According to the Seattle Seahawks on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the club wants Willis back but expects another team to pay him as a starter.

NFL Network: Pears signed, Fowler to visit

More news from the NFL Network pipeline: The Raiders have signed tackle Erik Pears, a lineman who was not offered a tender from the Denver Broncos and will hope to land a roster spot in Oakland, and will meet with free agent center Melvin Fowler of Buffalo.

Fowler was not re-signed in 2009 after playing in 15 games with five starts. He started 32 games the previous two seasons.

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer