The Oakland Raiders have been one of the NFL’s laughingstocks for years, and it was quite difficult to attract free agents to the organization when giving them a call. Having Jamarcus Russell at quarterback at and the tight-fisted Tom Cable as a head coach certainly didn’t help matters.
Now they’re the ones answering and fielding phone calls from free agents, and general manager Reggie McKenzie is just happy to be the one on the reiving end of those calls, as the Bay Area News Group details.
“It’s good to see people call us and not always have to beg,” McKenzie said with a wide smile Saturday night at the club’s annual Commitment to Excellence award dinner at the Airport Hilton. “I think people can see what we’re doing. I think our players, they’re showing on the field, and players talk to each other. We had a handful of guys play in the Pro Bowl. It’s a strong fraternity within the NFL. Guys interact.”
The Raiders were one of the most active teams at the start of free agency, nabbing offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele of the Baltimore Ravens, linebacker Bruce Irvin of the Seattle Seahawks, and cornerback Sean Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs. The three contracts have the potential to shell out a maximum of $137 million. While the Raiders missed out on Malik Jackson (who signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars), McKenzie is pretty happy about the guys they got.
“We targeted these guys,” McKenzie said. “We had an order of how we wanted to do it. (Jackson) was on the list, of course. He’s a good football player. But the guys we got, we’re extremely happy to have.”
Defensive back Charles Woodson, who retired at the end of the 2015 season and was honored with the Commitment to Excellence Award, is encouraged by the franchise’s direction. He’ll be watching the team from his new role as an NFL analyst for ESPN.
“You look at what’s happening in free agency right now, guys wanting to come here and play,” Woodson said. “You’ve got to feel good about the direction. Mark Davis, Reggie, along with Jack, they’re working together to make sure this organization is what it used to be and have the respect it used to have. It’s going to be fun to watch them.”
The Raiders, despite going 7-9 last season, have a strong nucleus of young talent to build around that includes the likes of quarterback Derek Carr, receiver Amari Cooper, and pass rusher Khalil Mack.
For McKenzie, the Raiders are just getting started with crafting their team, and the next challenge is prepping for the 2016 NFL Draft while keeping a sharp eye on free agent targets.
“This thing will probably go through the draft,” McKenzie said. “You never know when guys are ready to sign. There are still guys getting released. We’re always going to be attacking. If we see someone that can help, we’re going after him.”
Could the Raiders make the playoffs in 2016? Based on their moves and progress the past few seasons, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility now – especially given the status of a Peyton Manning-less Denver Broncos in the AFC West.