Oakland Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie (left) is building a roster for new coach Dennis Allen.
What do you call an offseason in which your two starting cornerbacks are released, you say goodbye to standout running back Michael Bush and pass-rush specialist Kamerion Wimbley and much of your attention is focused on trying to cut big contracts?
If you’re Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie, you call it largely successful.
From the outside,looking in as a Raiders fan, that may not be the description that comes to mind. But from the inside – after inheriting what might be called a mess – McKenzie apparently is satisfied that he’s making progress.
On Thursday, McKenzie talked to several Bay Area reporters at Stanford’s Pro Day, and the San Francisco Chronicle’s Vittorio Tafur characterized McKenzie as being “pleased with how the offseason has gone so far.”
“A little bit better (than expected), because we were able to knock out a couple of areas we felt we wanted to upgrade, and fill in or solidify,” McKenzie told Tafur.
One of those areas, McKenzie said, was the offensive line, with the re-signing of guard Cooper Carlisle and tackle Khalif Barnes and the addition of free-agent guard Mike Brisiel. The plan now, says McKenzie, is to have Stefan Wisniewski move from left guard to center (replacing the departed Samson Satele), have Carlisle move to left guard and put Brisiel at right guard.
After releasing both starting corners, Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson, to save significant money, McKenzie told Tafur he was pleased to sign ex-49er Shawntae Spencer and former Ram Ronald Bartell to replace them, calling them “two guys that we like.”
McKenzie told reporters the team’s biggest need at this point is to find an outside linebacker to replace Wimbley, whom the team wanted to keep but couldn’t afford. Even after all the roster slashing and agreements of holdovers to renegotiate contracts, McKenzie says the Raiders still have less than $4 million of salary cap space to work with.
Of Wimbley, McKenzie told Tafur: “He wanted what he wanted and we needed what we needed and it couldn’t work out.”
McKenzie’s priority is to find an outside linebacker, but other needs – such as a veteran backup quarterback and running back – don’t have to be immediately addressed.
At this point, he told the media, “we’re gearing up for the draft” and waiting to find out what compensatory picks the Raiders will be awarded. As it stands now, the Raiders have just two picks in the draft, a fifth-rounder and a sixth-rounder.
When McKenzie took the job as GM, coming over from the Green Bay Packers, he knew this would be a busy and difficult offseason, with the goal of re-positioning the organization for long-term success. He stressed that there would be no quick fixes and that much work needed to be done trying to clear salary cap space for future maneuvering.
Though many of those moves have been painful for Raiders fans – Routt is a Chief, Bush is a Bear, Wimbley now has signed a big deal with the Titans – McKenzie continues to move forward, molding a new roster for rookie coach Dennis Allen.
Said McKenzie of the offseason moves that he’s had to make: “That’s the way it goes. This year, that’s what we’re up against, but we knew that.”