The good news just got a little better for GM Reggie McKenzie and the Oakland Raiders. Already with the most cap space in the league to operate with at a reported $61 million, the league just announced that the salary cap will be raised to $130 million in 2014, which gives the Raiders another $4 million or so to work with.
According to Overthecap.com, Oakland will have a total of $64,417,920 in available cap money to use this offseason. The lingering question of course is: how best to use that pile of cash?
Despite the luxury of having so much money to work with and the league rule that stipulates that a team must spend 89 percent of its available cap space, McKenzie is striking a cautious, conservative tone. He seems determined to not repeat the same mistakes Al Davis did in his later years, when he handed out ludicrous contracts that gave an outrageous amount of money to players like Larry Brown, Javon Walker, DeAngelo Hall, Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour, among others — contracts that bore very little return on their investment.
Instead, McKenzie seems to be looking for the best return on his investments and appears to be looking at spending that fortune wisely. In a recent interview with local media that asked him about the war chest he has to spend, McKenzie said, “Just because I have $5 in my pocket, doesn’t mean I have to spend all of it.”
It goes without saying that this year, the third season with McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen at the helm and their first year free from salary cap hell, is crucial both to the long-term success of the franchise as well as to their jobs. It seems to be a foregone conclusion that if the Raiders don’t show a marked improvement from two consecutive 4-12 campaigns that both Allen and McKenzie will be looking for employment elsewhere.
The most important ingredient of this offseason for both men will be how McKenzie chooses to spend that $64 million.
With a wide variety of needs to address, the Raiders have the money now to plug some of the more serious holes on the squad. Defense has long been an issue for the team and is an area the team must address immediately if they want to have any success in 2014.
Will McKenzie pony up the cash for impact players like Jared Allen or Justin Tuck? Or will he opt to use the money that could be earmarked for one player of Allen or Tuck’s stature and spread it among a few others who are perhaps not as dynamic, but are still solid and capable of filling needs?
Given that McKenzie earned his front office stripes with the Green Bay Packers, an organization not typically known for throwing piles of cash at players, the latter seems more likely. But with an additional $4 million to play with, is it feasible that he could sign a high-priced impact player and some solid complementary pieces? Perhaps. We’ll find out soon enough.
Mckenzie knows that this year is pivotal both personally and to the team that drafted him back in 1985. He desperately wants to lead the organization out of Davis’ shadow and into a new era of greatness. He has a solid background in running a successful organization from his time in Green Bay. He knows he has to be smart and spend wisely.
So far, all signs point to him doing just that, which should give the Raiders faithful some much-needed hope as we enter this new era.