Reggie McKenzie, general manager of the Oakland Raiders, is heading into free agency with a plan unlike something that Raider Nation is comfortable with, nor have they seen before.
Sometimes winning free agency is as simple as not jumping to overpay guys, definitely not overcommitting yourself to stars, and having to destabilize the glue.
Trading in the NFL is currently cutting edge stuff for most front offices. Those who have rediscovered the concept of swinging the bat have made loud contact and often hitting nothing but net. Shrewd trading is trending up as teams are opposed to mortgaging drafts and giving away first-day and early second-day draft picks.
Perception would have fans believing the franchise is choosing to once again lay dormant instead of improving. The fact of the matter is the Raiders have a salary cap and can’t pay all their own guys, let alone making too many splashes against teams who can outspend them. Be it via picks or “straight cash, homie.”
The Raiders have been connected to lots of players; in fact, at one point they were involved in the Jarvis Landry Sweepstakes, as offseason rumors would have it. They have been connected to Gerald McCoy and have also been recently connected to Geno Atkins.
One thing to remember about McKenzie is he likes to take care of his guys, which has Justin Ellis being re-signed to a three-year $15M deal. Flashy no, but effective and always remember, those who have trade capital and cap flexibility also have perpetual losing records.
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Which brings us to me burying the leade yet again. Let us not forget that the NFL is a business and this is the time of year when GMs do their best Paul Levesque impersonation and say, “It is what’s best for business.” As it sits, the Raiders may need to cut or restructure the deals of five players: Sean Smith, Bruce Irvin, Michael Crabtree, Jared Cook, and Marshawn Lynch, to achieve an additional $35.69M on top of the $15.8M of cap space they already have.
Jon Gruden has recently met with Doug Martin and came away very impressed, prompting pandemonium and leaps to conclusions about the status of players. In the NFL, spectrum competition is the proper way to apply leverage to a contract situation. If you want a player to take a pay cut, what better way than to show him you will move on if terms can’t be reached? In no way am I insinuating anything other than to point out how things work and to try to calm the hysteria.
One thing is for certain, don’t expect the Raiders to be major players in free agency as they must first re-sign Khalil Mack and create salary cap flexibility before they can do much of anything. Look for a bevy of moves after the team has had a chance to formally meet its coach.