As expected, the free agency window opened today, and we were treated to an absolutely dizzying flurry of transactions. Money and players were flying all around the country at a fast and furious clip.
Then there are the Oakland Raiders who despite having brought more money to the dance than anybody else in the league, are apparently acting like Kate Moss on a starvation diet. Some of us expected GM Reggie McKenzie to take a cautious and conservative approach to the free agent feeding frenzy, but this is seriously ridiculous.
The Raider Nation watched in horror as McKenzie let key free agents Jared Veldheer, Lamarr Houston and Rashad Jennings leave for green pastures. They left with a lot of lip service, but zero action on McKenzie’s part. Not only did they leave, but McKenzie did next to nothing to fill in the gaping holes they left today.
Day one of free agency has left a lot of Raiders fans flustered and confused — not to mention probably plenty frustrated and angry. The lack of any sort of action from the Raiders war room today was disturbing, and Raiders fans are hoping it’s not a portent of worse things to come.
To say that McKenzie did absolutely nothing today wouldn’t be fair. He did sign former St. Louis Rams OT Rodger Saffold to a five-year, $42.5 million dollar contract — $21 million of which is guaranteed. Though Saffold is very versatile, some have expressed concern with his durability as he missed 17 games over his four seasons in St. Louis.
The contract itself may not seem so bad until you compare it with the departed Veldheer’s five-year, $35 million dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals. Veldheer is considered one of the upper-level tackles in the league, and if they could have retained him and saved $7 million in the process, how did McKenzie fumble that one away?
For Raiders fans though, probably the most baffling move that McKenzie made today was in retaining the services of Darren McFadden. Over his six years with the organization, McFadden saw more action inside the training room than he did on the field. Between his numerous injuries over the last couple of seasons, McFadden has averaged a very paltry 3.3 yards a carry — which is the second-worst only to the recently retired Rashard Mendenhall.
That’s not exactly the sort of company you’d want to keep. Yet for reasons known only to him, McKenzie offered up a contract to the frequently injured running back.
It’s true that the cap hit will be small. McFadden’s contract is heavy on incentives and performance bonuses with a relatively low base salary. But for as often as he’s on the field and for as ineffective as he’s been when he’s managed to get out of the training room, any money seems like a waste of money.
Truth be told though, the McFadden signing feels a lot like McKenzie doing something for the sake of looking like he’s doing something. Raiders fans can only sit back and hope that McFadden doesn’t injure himself while signing that contract.
It’s true that this was only the first day of free agency. Jared Allen, Darrelle Revis, Justin Tuck, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and plenty others are still out there. There is still time for McKenzie to pull in some playmakers to help transform the roster and help guide the Raiders back to respectability, but an incredibly shaky first day sets a bad tone, and understandably makes the fanbase incredibly nervous.
McKenzie knows that he has no more excuses. He has a ton of cash and flexibility, and this is all on him now. As I wrote yesterday, Raider fans need to take a breath and trust in Reggie. There is still time for him to turn it around and have a very successful free agent period. But after watching what he did — and didn’t do today — all we can do is hope that he actually has a coherent plan, because from where we’re sitting right now, it sure doesn’t look like it.