The Raiders need a lot of help this offseason, and with the trade period starting next week, free agency looming and the draft in April still ahead, Oakland’s roster moves will come fast and furious over the next two months.
This first Monday in March, in fact, is the deadline day for teams to give out franchise tags to their players headed for free agency, so key veterans such as punter Shane Lechler and tight end Brandon Myers have uncertain futures.
However, one Raider who doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in the near or long term is running back Darren McFadden.
Despite several injuries and a disappointing 2012, Oakland appears to be confident that McFadden – who still has one year on his contract – can and should be an impact player for the team’s running game in 2013 and beyond.
There had been some speculation that Oakland might be willing to trade McFadden for more picks in GM Reggie McKenzie’s rebuilding project, but McKenzie said after the season that’s not going to happen.
“I’m confident Darren’s going to play his last season,” McKenzie told reporters in January. “Regardless of what’s out there, we have no decision to do anything with Darren.”
Now, McKenzie is saying he hopes to get the team’s salary cap under control so the team can work on re-signing McFadden to a longer deal before this one runs out.
With a new offensive coordinator, new offensive line coach and a return to the power-blocking scheme in which McFadden flourished before the ill-fated zone-blocking experiment of 2012, McKenzie told Pro Football Talk recently that, “I’m looking forward to Darren McFadden having a great season this year.”
That doesn’t mean the Raiders won’t draft a running back or sign a veteran in free agency to back up McFadden and give the team some depth. But it does mean Oakland has faith in the fact that what happened to McFadden in 2012 was a fluke.
The former first-round pick out of Arkansas averaged just 3.3 yards per carry and seemed lost in Greg Knapp’s offense.
After a 4-12 season, Knapp was fired and head coach Dennis Allen and McKenzie believe the new coaching staff and system will help McFadden return to form in 2013. A hard-running McFadden will allow the Raiders to play more ball-control, take the pressure of the quarterback -- whoever it may be – and keep the defense off the field.
McKenzie said the Raiders offense just didn’t use McFadden’s talents well in 2012.
“It’s obvious that Darren is much better on certain types of plays,” he said. He added that good teams find ways to get the ball to a playmaker such as McFadden so he can “do what he does best.”
McKenzie also says he isn’t worried, going forward, about McFadden being injury prone. He says McFadden’s injuries have been odd, random things that have no relation to how durable McFadden is.
“He is as tough as they come,” McKenzie told Pro Football Talk. “Those things (fluky injuries) happen.”