After a second consecutive 4-12 season in 2013, the Raiders wanted to remake their roster. And, says head coach Dennis Allen, they were concerned not only with pursuing veteran free agents who can play, but also with veterans to change the team’s chemistry.
So when the Raiders signed veteran defensive end Justin Tuck in March, it marked one of the team’s first bold steps in that direction. Plus, Tuck’s signing was a signal to others to come to Oakland.
“We really looked for veteran players who had leadership qualities that were part of winning programs,” Allen told the media. “That was something we wanted to bring into the building. And guys who could play the game. We weren’t looking for mascots or hood ornaments; we were looking for guys who could come in and still play the game and yet they had the same qualities of leadership and understanding what it takes to be a championship football team.
“Justin Tuck, along with several of the other guys we were able to sign, fit those qualities.”
The signing of Tuck then led to the signing of former Steeler LaMarr Woodley. And after Woodley came defensive lineman Antonio Smith, cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers, wide receiver James Jones, offensive linemen Austin Howard, Donald Penn and Kevin Boothe and running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Tuck, 31, should add plenty of juice to the Raiders’ front seven, which should be able to mount a much more spirited pass rush in 2014 with Woodley at the other defensive end and rookie outside linebacker Khalil Mack thrown into the mix.
At the just-completed full-roster Raiders minicamp, Allen noted that the atmosphere seemed much different. With an influx of veteran and rookie talent, Allen said “I don’t think there’s any question you can feel” a new vibe.” Added Allen: “I think we’ve had an outstanding offseason.”
And Tuck, who made the move to sign with the Raiders that opened the door for others to follow, can also feel those good vibrations – but he’s not making any bold predictions about what this team does.
“Very talented,” he said, when asked by Bay Area News Group columnist Tim Kawakami about his new team. “But we haven’t put on pads yet. So that’s when you figure out if guys can play football.”
Though Tuck is excited by his new team and surroundings, he’s still mystified about his exit from the New York Giants.
After nine seasons in New York, and with two Super Bowl rings, Tuck thought the Giants were going to make a better effort to keep him. Instead, Tuck – with 60½ career sacks, including 11 last season – was allowed to walk.
“I am still surprised I’m not a New York Giant,” Tuck told the Newark Star-Ledger this week. But, he added, “I’m excited about what the Oakland Raiders are doing.”
And he says he’s eager to provide leadership the way he did with the Giants, when he was voted a team captain.
“They’ve got to vote me (captain),” Tuck told the newspaper, when asked if he’ll be a leader. “But I’m doing exactly what I did with the Giants there. Leading by example, playing good football and trying to steer guys in the right direction. So yeah, I guess I have taken on the same role in Oakland.”