The Oakland Raiders were one of the most active NFL teams in free agency this year. They brought in 11 new players through free agency while also adding another, Matt Schaub, via trade. But rather than the focus of the media being on the drastically different makeup of the team and how it has improved, the media has focused on the age of the players and chosen to look poorly upon Reggie McKenzie’s offseason.
That, however, is missing a huge aspect of what McKenzie has done this year.
Sure, a lot of the guys he signed are older and on the backside of their careers. But at the same time, they also have a ton of experience and not just years in the league, winning experience and experience being some of the best players in football. Even at an advanced age when their skills may be starting to deteriorate, they represent massive upgrades over the 2013 roster that was full of backups and questionable NFL talent.
So the roster is clearly better even though there is a valid point to be made about the fact that many of the players are no longer in their prime. Part of the reason behind the negative view on the Raiders this offseason is because of the massive amount of cap space that McKenzie had to work with. Some believed that because of that space, McKenzie should have morphed into Al Davis and spent like mad, bringing in big names to appease the masses.
That, however, would have gone against everything that McKenzie has been trying to do the past two years. He did not clear the Raiders of obscene contracts and a terrible cap situation simply to get them back into another one. Instead, McKenzie brought in talented veterans on short term contracts. He expects the veterans to help develop the younger players while helping the team be competitive in the meantime. Plus, none of the contracts involve massive numbers. Even while these guys play out their 2-3 year deals, the team won’t be hurting as a result of them and can continue to add players every offseason.
To put it simply, McKenzie has put together a Raiders roster that will be able to reload rather than rebuild.
With such low risk signings that the Raiders will be out from under in a couple of years, they will remain free to continuously upgrade every offseason. Gone are the days of needing to restructure deals just to get under the cap before free agency. Gone are the days of trading high draft picks for older talent. Gone are the days of trying to hit a home run and win a Super Bowl with one or two massive signings.
Instead of trying to be the hare, McKenzie is the definition of the tortoise. He is methodical about his process but that will permit the Raiders to continue building every year, giving them the flexibility to plug holes where needed and ensuring that every offseason will be spent upgrading the roster rather than trying to deal with money issues in the hope of making one big splash.
No, the offseason was not the most exciting or sexiest for the Raiders. Yes, they could have gone out and thrown money around making big name signings left and right. But had they done that, it would have simply been repeating history and a history that Raiders fans have been complaining non-stop about for years. While fans and media alike were hoping for a big and exciting offseason, it’s the slow and steady tactic that wins the race.
After all, when was the last time you saw the Patriots “win” free agency? The Packers? What about the Super Bowl champion Seahawks? Niners? Saints?
The perenial winners in the regular season are never mentioned as winners in free agency. And for a good reason.