Raiders Free Agency Round-up

General Manager Reggie McKenzie keeps making me look bad.

As some may know, I was initially enamored with the hire back in 2012, but quickly grew uneasy in the seasons that followed. I wouldn’t question my patience, but rather, I was genuinely concerned he was in over his head. Fast forward to now, and McKenzie’s wiped the slate completely clean; purging this team of big contracts for inconsistent and undeserving players, while stocking the roster full of youth and talent. That 2014 draft was his masterpiece.

The narratives surrounding Reggie’s approach to the draft, free agency, and contracts are well-documented (or so we’re led to believe). This is about the time every year when we are reminded, incessantly, about the “Thompson Tree” and how McKenzie falls in line with that thinking. On a related note, this is also the time of year when I make sure this gem resurfaces:^tfw

McKenzie killed the “first-round wide receiver” narrative in 2015. He followed that by putting an end to the “Ted doesn’t spend, so Reggie won’t spend” group think this year, as we witnessed a few weeks back (this probably would’ve been a talking point last offseason, but seeing Randall Cobb stay home and Ndamukong Suh head to Miami maintained perceptions). Anyhow…

Good general managers aren’t looking to “win” free agency. That’s not how you successfully build a team and consistently make postseason runs. In 2016, McKenzie had money to spend, and spend he did. He handed out a ton of cash, but managed to fill obvious holes on the roster with standout talent. That’s not a bad thing.

With the core seemingly in place and the proverbial arrow pointing up, let’s see who returned Reggie’s phone calls this year.

Kelechi Osemele, OG/OT

Turning 27 in June, Osemele was (arguably) the top available free agent on the market. Reggie McKenzie made sure he knew that, handing him a 5-year, $58.5 million contract, with $25.4 million in guaranteed coin over the first two seasons. KO will immediately slot in at left guard, kicking rising star Gabe Jackson over to right guard. The return of Donald Penn at left tackle will allow Oakland to roll out one of the best offensive lines in the league.

Bruce Irvin, OLB

This signing appeared out of left field, but really should’ve been a bit more expected. Irvin’s connection with current Raiders’ DC (and former Seattle linebacker coach) Ken Norton Jr. obviously had a little something to do with it. Irvin is now the proud recipient of a 4-year, $37 million contract with $14.5 million in guarantees.

Check out what new Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon fetched for comparisons sake. McKenzie is handing out smart money.

I think Bruce is excited about the fit going forward.

Back-to-back like Jordan ’96, ’97…

bruce1 (sack 2014)

…really though, a pair to end the game at Carolina back in 2014.

bruce2 (sack 2014)

Sean Smith, CB

McKenzie finally get his CB1 at 4-years, $38 million, with $15 million guaranteed upon putting pen to paper. Janoris Jenkins, rumored to be Reggie’s initial target, cashed out in New York with $28.8 million in guaranteed cash, making him the seventh-highest paid cornerback in the league. There’s quite the theme here, contract-wise, for McKenzie.

At 6’3″, Smith possesses the size McKenzie covets and obviously is quite the upgrade over the cornerback’s remaining on the roster.


Donald Penn, OT

With his play dipping toward the end of the 2015 season, Penn’s market maybe wasn’t what he expected. Multiple reports also noted Penn’s close ties to Oakland, not a place he ever wanted to really leave. Turning 33 in April probably didn’t help matters much, either.

At the end of the day, Penn’s resigning was absolutely critical as it allows stud guard Kelechi Osemele to be just that: a stud guard. A 2-year deal with $5.5 million guaranteed, McKenzie gets a player he “had to have” without emptying his wallet.

The best of the rest?

Although there’s money still to spend, it appears McKenzie’s done dipping his toes in the free agent waters for the moment. While he’s done a superb job shoring up the offensive line and adding elsewhere, safety remains an inescapable need. Tony Jefferson won’t be coming to Oakland as many had hoped, and Rashad Johnson recently landed in Tennessee. That leaves Reggie Nelson as the only significant name left on the market – a player that Del Rio drafted in Jacksonville – but my guess is that age is a factor here (which is odd, as he’s coming off a seriously productive 2015 campaign). The team over at PFF see a fit in Oakland… perhaps?

While Nelson (and Jefferson) makes sense, Mr. Ed Borsilli is dialed in, and he’s hearing that help may be on the way by means of the draft:

Other than the safety spots, running back remains a question mark of sorts going forward.

Murray obviously needs help; Coach Del Rio has said as much. If a running back isn’t in the cards for the Raiders this April, I’d certainly kick the tires on Arian Foster. I’ve discussed my affinity for him before, and I believe he’d be the perfect complement to a player like Latavius Murray, even in the “twilight” of his career, injuries and all that; the consummate low risk, high reward-type player.

Lastly, we can’t forget about Aldon Smith, who still remains in the Raiders plan according to McKenzie:

Pairing Irvin with Mack, hopefully getting Edwards Jr. back at 100%, and adding Smith down the stretch? McKenzie might really be up to something, huh?

With the big waves of free agency now in the rear view, fans can turn their attention to the draft – where Reggie has really made his money in recent years.

Find me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive


1 thought on “Raiders Free Agency Round-up

  1. Pretty sure Reggie talked about a 5 year plan when he took the position, all those people who doubted him just weren’t listening and now they are all coming around. Kudos to you for admitting it.

    Reggie has had a solid off season, looking forward to the Draft and seeing how the roster shapes up through OTA’s.

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