After Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie signed a flurry of veteran free agents earlier this offseason, he took some criticism for spending so much on older players who could be past their prime.
But McKenzie wasn’t looking at just on-field production when he signed players such as Justin Tuck, Tarell Brown and LaMarr Woodley.
“What we’re trying to do is add some veteran leadership,” McKenzie told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group in March. “The bottom line is trying to upgrade the team through production and leadership. We’ve got some young guys, and we want to try and get that good mix, try to build.”
Now that the Raiders have gathered in Oakland for the start of the team’s voluntary offseason program, some of those veteran players are echoing McKenzie’s hopes. They believe they’re not only still at the top of their games, but can instill a new attitude in a team that has gone 8-24 over its past two seasons.
Former Jacksonville Jaguars standout running back Maurice Jones-Drew was one of several new Raiders who told Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com this week that the influx of veterans from winning franchises can be a big boost in 2014.
“We brought the right guys in,” Jones-Drew told Gutierrez.
Tuck, the defensive end who won two Super Bowls with the Giants, said in recent years he saw a Raiders team with talent but without the know-how to win, and he believes he and the other new veterans on the team can change that.
“That’s our mentality,” he said. “A lot of people say you go to Oakland for your career to die. I’m looking at it like this is an opportunity to revive a storied franchise in a city with a great fan base behind this football team.”
And defensive end LaMarr Woodley said a 4-12 season “is not good enough.” He sees the Raiders being good enough in 2014 to get to the playoffs.
“We just have to learn how to close out games, and it’ll be more wins than losses,” Woodley said in an interview on 95.7 The Game.
The attitude of the new veteran Raiders is that the future is now. That they can help turn Oakland into a playoff team. And that fits in exactly with the thinking of Raiders owner Mark Davis, who’s tired of losing.
“This (season) is one that we’ve been building toward the last few years,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle recently. “No question – we have to hit it right now.”
The new/old guys believe they can.