The state of the Oakland Raiders that Reggie McKenzie inherited from the late great Al Davis was one that was coachable, as they went 8-8 the previous two seasons, but fell to 4-12 in the first year under the new regime led by McKenzie and Dennis Allen. But eager to show how he felt about the state of the franchise, McKenzie began cleaning house with some guys who one might have felt was a key contributor, but who he felt was expendable.
Matt Flynn has started three two games in the NFL, throwing for 3 touchdowns against New England in 2010 and 6 against Detroit in 2011. However, he managed to get beat out in camp by rookie Russell Wilson after a monster contract from the Seahawks, which led to his departure. McKenzie was in Green Bay when Flynn was drafted, and it is hard to evaluate a guy with such few reps, but either Flynn will be who Reggie thinks he is or he will get beat out of a starting job in camp again by another former 3rd round (Supplemental Draft) QB in Terrelle Pryor. But make no mistake, QB is probably the least of worries for the Raiders right now. If they truly plan on moving Taiwan Jones to cornerback, Darren McFadden will be the only running back on the depth chart; they’re still missing a veteran presence at WR; RT and G are a concern on the OL; they have no pass rushers; and CB as well as FS are still a concern. But given this long, unpredictable Free Agency period, some people believe that McKenzie deserves a positive grade for what he has done with the organization so far.
Initial Free Agent signings in Oakland came off as adding depth, as opposed to adding starters. It seems the Raiders might be heading to a 3-4 based defense, and the signing of former Bengals DT Pat Sims indicates that they have a NT on board if they make that transition. Jason Hunter is more of a Special Teams/ backup guy who was injured with the Broncos last season, and Kaluka Maiava is a good thumper of an LB, who might compete with Miles Burris for the SLB starting spot. Vance Walker is probably going to start on the defensive line in place of the departures of Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly and Desmond Bryant. Losing all three means Oakland needs to add more depth other than Sims and Walker in their DT position.
Other signings were former Bears LB Nick Roach, who can play any LB role, as well as Kevin Burnett. CB Tracy Porter was recently given a 1-year deal, in attempts to get his career back on track after suffering a seizure that ended his season in Denver after a good start. But they have still yet to address the FS or pass rusher role in Free Agency, which are dire needs for this organization. Former Raider and one of the all-time greats Charles Woodson is still a Free Agent, who Reggie McKenzie knew well in Green Bay. However, there have been no indications that the Raiders have reached out to him. As we all know, Woodson can play Corner or Safety and still be effective, despite being in his late 30s. Former Arizona Cardinal S Kerry Rhodes is probably the last appealing FA Safety who can start on a team, but they have not reached out to him either.
As far as pass rushers are concerned, there are a few veterans in Free Agency who are getting calls from a lot of teams, excluding Oakland. Unless it is for certain that they will address that need in the draft, some noise needs to be made in FA with one of the experienced guys. John Abraham, Dwight Freeney, Israel Idonije and Shaun Phillips are still out there. They are not the biggest household names at this point in their career, but given Oakland’s circumstances, they should take what they can get.
The Oakland Raiders recently brought in cornerback Mike Jenkins for an interview, who would be another interesting addition for them, given their lack of depth in the DB category. Given that they worked out Jenkins, they should also find some veteran Wide Receivers to work out.
Some might call this a laughing matter, but I think it would be in Oakland’s best interest to add a veteran at WR like Chad Johnson, Laurent Robinson or even Braylon Edwards. Chad Johnson, despite missing all of the 2012 season for his off-field incident, will be good for the young group in Oakland in terms of developing their confidence and getting the attention of #1 CBs on opposing teams. We saw how Denarius Moore struggled last year as the #1 WR, constantly unable to get off of press and dropping several balls that were catchable. UDFA WR Rod Streater shocked the entire league last season, but he is a WR2 at best, to go along with Moore. They get Jacoby Ford back next year, who is in a contract year, which means he needs to stay healthy. But Ford is more of the prototypical slot WR who also returns kicks. That being said, the Raiders still do not have a #1 WR who Terrelle Pryor or Matt Flynn can go to when in doubt. So bringing in a veteran, which will be cheap, can be best for Oakland in terms of the direction the organization is headed.
Reggie McKenzie has been the busiest GM of them all this offseason, and I think it should stay that way. People can stop bringing up the excuse “he inherited this mess,” because the “mess” he inherited was one play away from going to the playoffs, but went 4-12 the following season. Last year, he made a small trade no one cared about, acquiring RB Mike Goodson from the Carolina Panthers. Goodson worked out well for Oakland, but is now a New York Jet. We can expect some more trades along those lines this offseason after the draft to add depth and role players. But until that time comes, expect McKenzie to make a few more Free Agent signings, and potentially a draft day trade getting Oakland out of the #3 pick and adding more selections for the club.