It's no secret that the Raiders' Reggie McKenzie inherited one of the more difficult front office challenges in recent years. Just weeks after cleaning out Al Davis' staff, he takes on the task of eliminating the team's "out of whack" contracts and preparing for a draft that only Mike Ditka could appreciate.
At the moment, the Raiders officially have only a 5th and 6th round pick in the draft, but once compensatory picks are issued for the losses of Nnamdi Asomugha, Robert Gallery, Zach Miller, and Thomas Howard, they could have as many as five picks in rounds 3 through 6.
Considering what the team has gleaned out of those rounds in recent years, McKenzie is hardly wasting his time in Indianapolis. Here are a few familiar names he can use as inspiration: Matt Shaughnessy (3rd round), Jared Veldheer (3rd round), Michael Bush (4th round), Louis Murphy (4th round), Kevin Boss (5th round), Shane Lechler (5th round), Denarius Moore (5th round), Trevor Scott (6th round), Chaz Schilens (7th round), Tommy Kelly (undrafted), and Sterling Moore (undrafted).
As McKenzie orchestrates the Raiders' first draft without Al Davis in the Super Bowl era, he'll hope to continue the trend of success in later rounds. But don't expect him to overvalue players' physical tools (as Davis was often accused of doing). McKenzie told Jerry McDonald on Thursday that he sees the combine as an opportunity to interview and review medical information, but that athletic skills don't necessarily translate to football skills.
As far as those out-of-whack contracts are concerned, Jerry McDonald tweeted yesterday that McKenzie is still "trying to get things done" with players' agents. With so many huge cap numbers in 2012, he has plenty of contracts he will consider restructuring or could eliminate by March 13.
As it stands, Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford, Jared Veldheer, Matt Shaughnessy, Lamarr Houston, Stefen Wisniewski and Darrius Heyward-Bey will account for roughly the same amount against the cap as Michael Huff. The same is true of Aaron Curry. The Raiders aren't particularly deep at linebacker or safety, but that was also the case at cornerback and it didn't save Stanford Routt.
Making the most of a limited draft and solving the team's cap issues is a lot to ask of a rookie general manager, but his former boss believes he is up to the task. Asked about McKenzie's move from Green Bay to Oakland, Packers GM Ted Thompson told reporters, "I think they got a gem... plus the fact that Reggie has a history with the Oakland Raiders and that sort of thing, I think that’s the way he’ll go about it. And he’ll do a good job.”
All things considered, McKenzie's approval rating seems to be high. There are still tough decisions to be made, but if he is in over his head, he hasn't shown it. That may not be the greatest endorsement, but it's more than anyone was saying about Hue Jackson in his final days with the team.