Moves the Oakland Raiders Will Regret Not Making This Offseason
Now that free agency has started to wind down, the Oakland Raiders and their general manager Reggie McKenzie deserve credit for the job they've done.
As a whole, the entire free-agency process is a grueling one.
Jack Bechta of the National Football Post wrote an amazing, in-depth piece detailing what really goes on from the time the season ends until free agency officially opens its doors.
You may not agree with McKenzie's philosophy of bringing in veteran players, but the one thing he made sure of is that the Raiders are going to go out and compete next season.
McKenzie is in a tough place right now.
Coming off back-to-back 4-12 seasons, his job, along with head coach Dennis Allen's, could be in serious jeopardy if the team doesn't show signs of improvement.
Considering we are witnessing the rebirth of the AFC West—a division that manufactured three playoff teams last season—McKenzie had to do something in free agency to try and keep up.
If nothing else, McKenzie's foray into open market brought a sense of fiscal responsibility back to this organization.
Joel Corry of CBSSports.com discussed McKenzie's decision to use a "pay as you go" approach:
McKenzie is using a "pay as you go" structure with his signings. A player's cash and salary cap numbers are the same in each contract year because he is receiving salary guarantees instead of a signing bonus under the "pay as you go" model. The guarantees typically consist of 2014 base salary or roster bonuses in these deals. Since there isn't any signing bonus proration, the Raiders won't have any dead money if a player is released after the season.
For all of the positive acquisitions we saw this offseason, there were still a handful of moves the Raiders will regret not making.
Here is a detailed look at five of them.
Failing to Re-Sign Lamarr Houston
From the standpoint of keeping "homegrown" talent around, McKenzie and the Raiders had their issues in free agency.
Though he may not be an explosive edge-rusher, the Raiders will miss his consistent play and versatility—Houston has played in both a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme.
A staple of Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) top 4-3 defensive ends, Houston finished the 2013 season with a positive 14.9 grade in run defense.
The good news is, even without Houston around, the Raiders shouldn't miss much of a beat when it comes to stopping the run.
The additions of Antonio Smith and Justin Tuck have given this defense two productive run-stoppers who can control the line of scrimmage.
What will hurt most about Houston's departure is the fact that he's in his prime and he's been one of the most durable defensive linemen in the NFL.
At 27 years old, Houston is four years younger than Tuck and five years the junior of Smith.
From a durability standpoint, according to PFF's count (subscription required), Houston was on the field for 94.9 percent of all defensive snaps last season.
Compare that to Tuck—who PFF (subscription required) determined was on the field 77.1 percent of the time—and you start to understand just how durable of a player he is.
In the interim, losing Houston isn't going to be a recipe for disaster.
But if McKenzie can't find a way to infuse a young, productive player back into this defensive front, the absence of Houston will become an issue for this franchise down the road.
Not Pursuing Knowshon Moreno
Of all the running backs who hit the free-agent market, Knowshon Moreno may have been the biggest bargain of them all.
For what it's worth, Jones-Drew's deal was structured perfectly by the Raiders' brass.
At 29 years old, the only guaranteed money he will walk away with is around $1.2 million, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun.
The 26-year-old Moreno wound up signing with the Miami Dolphins on a one-year deal, per ESPN's Adam Schefter—NFL.com's Ian Rapoport had the particulars on the contract, noting it was worth $3 million.
A former first-round pick, Moreno struggled to get things going during his tenure with the Denver Broncos until he found a way to revitalize his career in 2013.
Rushing for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns while racking up 60 receptions for 548 yards, the former Georgia Bulldog thrived in the Broncos' high-powered attack.
You make the argument that Moreno's big season was a product of Peyton Manning and the Broncos' offense.
As ESPN's Christopher Harris tweeted, "192 of Knowshon Moreno's 242 carries last year came with 6 men or fewer in the box."
But if you watch the film, Moreno ran hard, found lanes and exploded through them with tenacity throughout the season.
Running backs as a whole have become devalued in today's NFL. But a productive runner like Moreno whose greatest attribute may actually be in pass protection, is worth $3 million.
McKenzie may regret not going after Moreno when the 2014 season starts to unfold.
Failing to Re-Sign Jared Veldheer
The second homegrown talent the Raiders lost this offseason was left tackle Jared Veldheer.
The 26-year-old was vocal at times leading up to free agency, talking about his desire to return to the Silver and Black.
At one point, he told Alex Marvez at Fox Sports 1 that he "really wants to stay in Oakland."
The situation deteriorated when the Raiders and Veldheer couldn't work out a deal before he hit the open market.
Since that time, there's been a war of words dispersed between the two parties.
McKenzie told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, "Losing Veldheer was a blow to me. He didn’t want to come back. It wasn’t about finances. The kid didn’t want to play for the Raiders anymore, and I struggled with that."
The big offensive tackle refuted those claims when they were brought up on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM's Doug and Wolf Show.
"I appreciate everything that Oakland did for me over the last four years, we just couldn't get (a contract) done. It wasn't that I didn't want to be there, because I know that's been said recently," Veldheer said.
It's going to be tough to figure out what actually went down. However, not striking a deal with Veldheer is one move this team is going to regret not making this offseason.
He's a big, powerful left tackle who when healthy—Veldheer missed 11 games in 2013—can hold court at the line of scrimmage.
Grading out as PFF's (subscription required), 12th-best tackle in 2012, the Raiders will have to find a way to make up for his production.
Not Going After Another Wide Receiver
Even though promising young players like Andre Holmes and Rod Streater should be a part of this team's future plans, adding another target through free agency certainly would have bolstered the legitimacy of this offense.
The entire DeSean Jackson narrative was a situation the Raiders were meticulous about.
Without any knowledge of his personal life, it's not fair, or appropriate, to comment on any of the allegations Jackson has faced in the media.
Strictly based off his performance on the field, the Raiders missed out on a guy who would have changed the complexion of this offense.
After NFL Network's Albert Breer tweeted that the team was doing "background work" on Jackson, the Raiders decided not to get involved with the speedy wide receiver.
History will be the best indicator of whether that decision was the right one or not.
Getting away from the whole "Jackson saga", the Raiders could have pursued a guy like Golden Tate in free agency.
Tate was an important part of the Seahawks' offense last season, racking up 64 catches for 898 yards and five touchdowns.
The draft is steadily approaching, and that's always a great place to land another wide receiver. So there is a chance this regret could ultimately work itself out in the coming weeks.
Not Landing a Marquee Name in Free Agency
Having an estimated $66 million in cap space at the start of free agency, per Over the Cap, put the Raiders in a great position to lure big-name free agents over to the Bay Area.
Surprisingly, not one premier player ended up signing a deal with the Silver and Black.
As a fan, you look at guys like Jairus Byrd, Alterraun Verner, Darrelle Revis and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and have to be a little bummed out that one of them didn't end up rocking a Raiders uniform.
Scheme and philosophy may have played a role in it, but this was one offseason the Raiders could have used their funds to bring home a marquee name.
McKenzie has done a respectable job rebuilding this team. And as noted earlier, he's done it with a sense of fiscal responsibility.
But it's foolish to ignore the notion that if the Raiders had figured out a way to land a prominent player in free agency, this team would be in better shape entering the 2014 season.
All NFL free-agency information and stats courtesy of NFL.com unless noted otherwise.
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