If the Raiders aren’t competitive for another season, the fault will not lie with new GM Reggie Mckenzie. Dealt an abhorrent salary cap situation, a team littered with underachieving former high draft picks (all of which he’s let go) and not a lot of draft picks to rebuild with he’s pulled off nothing but the savviest of moves and retooled this Raiders squad in a hurry.
For almost every positional vacancy he either inherited or was forced into making as a means of creating cap space, a solution’s been found. Carson Palmer essentially quits on this team - after they invested three high picks in him - and he gets probably the best quarterback on the trading block for late round picks in Matt Flynn. McKenzie not for a lack of effort, but rather means, loses players like Desmond Bryant and Phillip Wheeler to free agency. He then replaces them with the likes of Pat Sims and Kevin Burnett. Are these players any better, or even as good as the ones who once occupied their positions? Probably not, but there’s no doing better than that with the resources at his disposal.
As good as McKenzie’s work with the offense and front seven has been, it’s his work on the secondary that will give this team a hope in hell of competing what’s shaping up to be a pass happy AFC West. His most lauded move of this offseason will most likely be his latest addition, Charles Woodson. It couldn’t have been easy to convince a defensive back with maybe one or two more good years of football in him to come to a team that hasn’t a hope in hell of contending any time soon, but he found a way.
His less noticed, but likely as valuable, additions of Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter are also worth noting. Especially the addition of Jenkins, who is coming off a miserable year. The reason for Jenkins last year being so miserable has entirely to do with his adjusting to playing nickelback and the fact that the entire Cowboys defense was garbage. For proof of this I drew his cornerback ranking from pro football focus in 2011 and compared it to that of his 2012 ranking. In 2011 when Jenkins was a starter he graded out positively and was the 43rd ranked corner in the league. His 2012 season, where he started in the nickel, he grades out negatively in every category and ranks 94th. As for Porter, his last season with Denver went quite well. He started opposite Champ Bailey and graded out 67th in the league. He will perform much better in the slot and his penchant for ball hawking will prove invaluable for the Raiders.
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There isn’t a GM in the league that could tackle the problems McKenzie inherited, but he’s off to a great start. In his first season with the Raiders, they will carry a dead cap charge of about $48M. That’s not peanuts and severely handcuffs him. Can’t wait to see what he could do with a little slack, cap room and draft picks. The time for optimism in Oakland has come.
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV