Lack of free-agent signings and a general offseason inactivity will create some short-term pain within the fanbase. But it's the right path if the Oakland Raiders want to return to relevance again in the long term.
After years of mediocrity, the Raiders finally have a chance to reboot the franchise and turn into one of the best teams in the NFL. They have to follow the right plan, though. That plan will lead into a bleeding of overpaid players' contracts and current talent to make way for future stars.
It will turn one of the worst franchises in the NFL into a truly God-awful franchise for a year or two while the foundation is laid for a better team to rise from the ashes. The short-term pain is just a means to an end as the long-term gains could turn into not just a lot of regular-season wins, but a Super Bowl victory.
The biggest tasks for the Raiders to fix the problems are to clean up the cap situation, build the team the proper way and keep faith that they are headed down the right path. Otherwise, they will just revert to being one of the worst teams in the NFL, yet again.
They Can Finally Fix Their Cap Situation By Shedding Al Davis’ Poor Decisions
Year after year Al Davis inundated the Raiders with horrible draft picks, terrible free-agent contracts and poor performance. The Raiders are in year two of the house cleaning, and it's going to get worse before it gets better after it.
The Raiders need to completely fix their cap. They are currently eating over $23 million in dead money, according to Spotrac. There will likely be another $4 million in dead money when Tommy Kelly and Carson Palmer are able to be released in 2014. The Raiders are getting rid of all of their poorly performing talent that is being ridiculously overpaid.
By getting rid of poor decisions Darrius Heyward-Bey, Aaron Curry, Kevin Boss, Dave Tollefson and DeMarcus Van Dyke already, the Raiders are able to show that the new philosophy is to bring in guys who are actually useful football players. They want guys who can contribute on the field like legitimate talent and be worthy of the contracts they give them.
Instead of overpaying for a lack of talent, they want to follow the Green Bay plan that Reggie McKenzie saw firsthand lead to a championship despite starting the run under Ted Thompson with a 4-12 record and cap hell.
Now, Green Bay has one of the best cap situations in the NFL and one of the best teams at the same time. If McKenzie can follow the same plan he saw Ted Thompson put into place cap-wise, the Raiders will not just be a great team, they will be a great team for a long time.
They Will Build the Team the Proper Way
The Raiders have signed Nick Roach, Kaluka Maiava and Kevin Burnett over the past couple of days as their only real moves in free agency. They haven't been super expensive or big-name signings, despite having the cap space for a big name or two. This has all been for the right reasons.
The plan in Oakland seems to be a total rebuild and reboot with a fixed cap situation. They will build through the draft and some good, affordable free-agent fixes temporarily while they build other parts of the team.
The first draft of the Reggie McKenzie era didn't follow the old strategy of getting athletic talents and trying to make them football players. Rather they brought in guys who have always been talented football players, and have athletic potential.
The ideals that McKenzie has brought in will be the proper way to build a team. It's the same strategy Thomas Dimitroff utilized for the Atlanta Falcons, and it's the same one that Bill Belichick used for the New England Patriots. By following a plan that has proven success for multiple other teams, the Raiders could finally end up making the playoffs, year in and year out.
Patience and Faith In the Building Process Will Lead to the Best Results
As a Falcons fan, I was used to the team losing eight or more games every season. But one thing that makes it easier to believe in a building process is when the coaches and general manager continue to preach that they are on the right path and actually stick to it.
If McKenzie and Dennis Allen stick to the current path, the Raiders could easily turn into a team that makes the playoffs every year. The Raiders have done too much path deviation with their total of six head coaches in the 10 years leading up to the Allen and McKenzie era.
The 56-104 record of those six head coaches—Bill Callahan, Lane Kiffin, Norv Turner, Hue Jackson, Art Shell and Tom Cable—has shown that the continued deviation from a single plan only messes up what could be a good thing going in Oakland.
Stick to the plan the way they have in New England, Indianapolis, Atlanta and Baltimore and lasting success will be had. Otherwise, they'll go back to their .350 winning percentage of the 10-year span from before McKenzie.
The "Get Slaughtered for Teddy Bridgewater" or "Crawl for Johnny Football" plan may not look like the best way to go. But it really is the way to re-build a team properly. By getting rid of the overpaid, underperforming talents to clean up the cap situation, building the team the right way and keeping the faith in the plan, the Raiders will end up a better team sooner rather than later.
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus's Premium Stats, ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy Spotrac and Rotoworld. All recruiting rankings come from 247Sports.com.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He also runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.