The Raiders have added some exciting talent this offseason, particularly on offense. Wide receiver-kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson and tight end Jared Cook could make quarterback Derek Carr and the passing game look even more dynamic in 2017.
But general manager Reggie McKenzie hasn’t been nearly as active in free agency as he has been the past few years. That, however, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After building up the roster for several seasons, McKenzie’s Raiders were 12-4 in 2016 and a playoff team for the first time since 2002. Now, there aren’t nearly the number of holes on the roster that need to be plugged. Plus, McKenzie has to be even more prudent with how he spends money in relation to the salary cap.
With big-money extensions due Carr, defensive end Khalil Mack and guard Gabe Jackson, McKenzie wasn’t able to spend on such defensive free agents as linebacker Zach Brown or defensive end Calais Campbell this offseason. And, he may not want to get into the bidding for the return to the NFL of running back Marshawn Lynch or trade for expensive cornerback Richard Sherman.
But, McKenzie has had success in the draft, and he knows he can add less-expensive but high-impact talent in the draft that begins April 27 to fill some of those holes, and he’s just fine taking his chances with first-year players.
In speaking with Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com recently, McKenzie talked about the reality of the salary cap and the way it impacts his hunt for talent.
“I would love to just grab any player I want,” he told Gutierrez. “But they all can’t come for what you’re trying to put together. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. If it does, that’s a plus. We always want to upgrade the roster. If I can add a veteran, especially a good young veteran with some talent, yeah, I would like to do that.”
And, he noted in a recent interview for the team's website, “there are a lot of good opportunities to make this team better” through the draft.
“I’m excited,” McKenzie said. “ … It’s hard to figure out who’s going to be there (at the 24th draft position in the first round), you like to know who your first-round pick is going to be, but we get excited for the second and third day of the draft and post-draft, with the free agency. We had seven guys make it that were not drafted in 2016. So that’s an exciting process that we go through.”
Running back Jalen Richard was one of those high-impact, low-cost free agents in 2016.
Said McKenzie: “We want to find more of those Jalen Richards to build this team.”