The Oakland Raiders are a rebuilding team, and that is a bitter pill to swallow after two consecutive 8-8 seasons, including the 2011 season in which the Raiders would have been a playoff team with a win in Week 17.
Following that 2011 season came the 4-12 year in 2012, and the rebuilding process was vastly accelerated by GM Reggie McKenzie in Oakland.
With recent reports coming from John Clayton of ESPN that the Oakland Raiders will have $69 million in salary-cap space in 2014, one can't help but think the Raiders will own, or maybe even dictate, free agency next year.
Is it too early to look ahead to 2014 when the 2013 season is yet to be played? Maybe so, but the looming financial freedom that awaits the organization after years of a brutal salary-cap crisis must be handled responsibly.
McKenzie came to Oakland from the Green Bay Packers; a team that was built through the draft and re-signing in-house free agents rather than diving into bidding wars on the open market.
McKenzie should bring that practice to Oakland. The last time the Raiders dove into the chaos that is free agency they came out with some ugly scars. Among those scars on the franchise were Javon Walker, Kwame Harris, Gibril Wilson and a trade for DeAngelo Hall.
That was in 2008, and it has taken the Raiders six years to finally gain a good chunk of cap space after the reckless spending of that offseason.
McKenzie would be wise to start the process of making the Raiders a contender by re-signing in-house free agents just like the Packers.
Some possible key free agents that could leave Oakland would be Lamarr Houston, Darren McFadden, Jacoby Ford and Jared Veldheer. Although McFadden is always an injury scare, there is no doubting his ability on the field when healthy.
The Raiders don't need to avoid free agency like the black plague. Part of the Packers' rebuilding process was the signing of free agent (and former Raider) Charles Woodson. Too many free agents could be a bad thing, though. Just ask the Philadelphia Eagles and their dream team.
If McKenzie plays his cards right for the next year, the long-awaited return to glory of the Oakland Raiders could be in 2014.
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