McKenzie's Free-Agent Strategy is Baffling

Raiders GM makes some head-scratching moves on Day 1 of free-agent signing period -- and he may not be done

All the signs pointed to Jared Veldheer, Lamarr Houston and Rashad Jennings staying, and Darren McFadden going.

So, of course on Day 1 of the NFL free agency period, the Raiders said farewell to Veldheer, Houston and Jennings and re-signed McFadden for another season.

So far, Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie’s actions in free agency have been bizarre.

McKenzie came to the Raiders with a reputation for being a smart, conservative football man, someone with the reported IQ and patience to rebuild the Oakland team from the ground up. Under McKenzie, the Raiders – once they cleared their roster of high-priced, low-performing players – would invest in home-grown talent, keep players in their prime and spend wisely.

Yet on the first day of free agency, home-grown players Veldheer and Houston walked and Jennings – a solid, blue-collar type who fit the mold of the high-character players McKenzie said he liked – signed with the New York Giants.

Plus, the Raiders shelled out big money for an often-injured offensive lineman, former Ram Rodger Saffold, and were reported to be in trade talks with Tampa Bay for cornerback Darrelle Revis, who’s due to make $13 million for each of the next five seasons. Revis, when healthy, may be the best cornerback in the NFL, yet that’s a hefty commitment for the Raiders, who vowed to be fiscally intelligent.

In addition, the Raiders Wednesday reportedly will host two veteran defensive stars on visits, and neither likely would come cheap: former Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley and ex-Giants defensive end Justin Tuck. Woodley, 29, was formerly a terrific player for Pittsburgh, but has had injury problems and his production has been in decline. Tuck, soon to be 31, had 11 sacks for the Giants in 2013 but is thought to be on the downhill side of his career.

Perhaps McKenzie has a big-picture strategy that will become much clearer in the coming days and weeks.

So far, however, it appears from a distance to have no cohesive theme.

Paul Gutierrez, who covers the Raiders for, was baffled by the Raiders first-day free-agent moves.

“It’s hard to figure out exactly what McKenzie is thinking,” Gutierrez wrote.

Added Gutierrez: “McKenzie, who entered free agency with nearly $65 million in salary cap space, has seemingly gone against everything he’s said on the record regarding his key free agents.”

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