“With the fifth pick in the NFL draft, the Oakland Raiders select … ”
As it stands now, the Raiders have many holes to fill. A second consecutive 4-12 season has them mired at the bottom of the AFC West – behind three playoff teams – and just one high first-round pick isn’t going to turn the Raiders into an overnight winner.
“We have biggest needs, with an ‘s,’ ” said Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, in a meeting with the team’s beat writers Thursday. “We’re going to attack it however way. I don’t care if it’s off the waiver wire, if somebody gets cut. If it’s an unrestricted guy, trade, draft, we’re going to do whatever we can to upgrade this team and we will. It’s a two-way street in some of those instances, but we’re going to upgrade this team personnel-wise.”
McKenzie was speaking publicly for the first time since the end of the season and the retention of head coach Dennis Allen for a third season, and he touched on a number of issues.
He said Allen’s job never was in danger, said there are several key free agents on the Raiders that the organization will try hard to re-sign and he re-iterated that the team has salary cap room and flexibility to make significant moves this offseason to get better.
But his primary message to Raiders fans is that he saw improvement in 2013 despite the record, and that the Raiders are committed to a plan to make the franchise a long-term winner.
McKenzie says the strength of the team now is “some good, young, up-and-coming players that are good role players.”
“We’re excited about the opportunities that are coming for us in 2014 from adding players to help bolster this roster, from the draft, as well as free agency,” he said. “But we’re excited about the continuity we’re bringing back and we’re looking forward to winning a lot more games this year.”
He’s been charged with rebuilding the roster, and he stressed that the rebuilding program doesn’t mean going after just one or two marquee names. The Raiders need quantity of talent as well as quality of talent. They need depth and role players as well as stars.
“We’re going to accumulate as many really good players as possible,” he said. “The philosophy is not to dump every dollar and cent into one or possibly two players, no. That’s not my philosophy. …
“We’re going to figure out how we can best get as many good players as we can. If that, by chance, leaves enough money or cap space to get that one player, then we’ll do that, too. We’re going to do things that make sense for the big picture.
“And the big picture is the overall of the roster.”
McKenzie is doing things his way, and he undoubtedly has the full support of owner Mark Davis. After another disappointing season, it would have been easy for Davis to be frustrated, wipe the slate, bring in new people or go in a new direction.
Instead, Davis is staying with McKenzie and Allen and letting them have the freedom to build. And McKenzie’s plan won’t involve spending money just to appease fans or to make it look like the Raiders are doing something. McKenzie will stay McKenzie.
“We’re going to do things that make sense,” McKenzie said of the money he has at his disposal now. “Just because I have $5 in my pocket, that doesn’t mean I have to spend it all on junk.”