There is more than meets the eye when talking about Austin Howard’s time with the Raiders.
Austin Howard was cut by the Oakland Raiders last night and with that, it is time to look back at one the biggest acquisitions in Reggie McKenzie’s tenure as general manager.
Back in 2014, Adam Schefter, of ESPN reported that the Raiders had signed Austin Howard, who enter the league as an undrafted-free agent in 2010, to a 5-year $30 million contract. The move was questioned at that time and even though Howard was not the best player on the field and was the weakest link in what is considered to be one of the most talented offensive lines in the NFL last season, his signing represented the start of the new era for the Raiders.
Reggie McKenzie inherited a team in decadence back in 2012 and his first order of business was to restore financial order after years of mismanagement; overpaid and underperforming veterans such as Kamerion Wimbley, Stanford Routt, Kevin Boss and John Henderson who were given the axe as soon as the general manager got hired.
In the same manner, the Raiders lacked high draft picks in 2012 and 2013 because of the ones that were used to acquire quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Terrell Pryor. Once McKenzie stabilized the team after a process of deconstruction and salary cap hell, he was finally able to spend money, lots of money.
After a decade of un-fruitfulness, it was not really easy to convince anyone to sign with the Raiders and buy into the culture McKenzie was building, so he did the smart thing and took advantage of his biggest asset at the time to lure players into joining the Raiders: $63 million to work with at the start of Free Agency in 2014.
McKenzie needed to overpay agents to go to Oakland, and Howard was one of those who benefited from the opportunity; he was one of the first prominent free agents the Raiders had gotten in a while. Pass-rushers Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley followed suit right after.
He immediately became a fixture on the offensive line and started 16 games for them in 2014 and even though he was far from elite, he arrived at a time when Donald Penn was thought to have been in the journeyman stage of his career and Gabe Jackson was just a rookie.
In 2015, Pro Football Focus gave him an 82.6 overall grade and seemed to be ready to be part of one of the best offensive lines in football for years to come until an injury derailed his campaign.
He didn’t play particularly well in 2016 and entered the 2017Â offseason fighting for the right tackle job; he was not able to seize it and with that, his meaningful tenure with the Raiders was over.
Although his performance in Oakland was uneven, there is no doubt Austin Howard was part of the movement back in 2014 that has positioned the Raiders to currently contend for the Super Bowl.
Thanks, Austin Howard!