Thus far this offseason the Oakland Raiders have made six free agent signings and retained two of their own players. General Manager Reggie McKenzie has made it clear how he approaches free agency in order to build the team. All the signing have come on the defensive side of the ball, with only one of the six making over 1 million dollars in base salary for 2013.
McKenzie clearly believes building the defense is the first move to make the Raiders a better football team. He is putting his stamp on Oakland during his second year as their lead decision maker. He has let all the Raiders big name free agents walk for big money deals elsewhere, including tight end Brandon Myers, linebacker Philip Wheeler, and defensive tackle Desmond Bryant. Gone are the days where the Raiders throw money at big names, McKenzie has been prudent with his spending after using last season and the beginning of this free agency period to clean out the Raiders abysmal salary cap situation.
There are many similarities with the players McKenzie has brought to Oakland. Linebackers Kevin Burnett, Kaluka Maiava, and Nick Roach are all between the ages of 27 and 30 with at least 13 starts in 2012. They all have the versatility to move inside and outside. They all have at least four years of NFL experience and fill a position of need.
The same philosophy was used as McKenzie addressed the defensive line, which was another major need for the Raiders. Pat Sims, Jason Hunter, and Vance Walker all have starting experience of at least eight games in a season with Sims and Hunter doing it twice. They are all between the ages of 25 and 29 with at least four seasons of NFL experience.
The Raiders are entering a new era of fiscal responsibility, which makes sense after McKenzie was cap strapped since he got to Oakland. They are getting young but experienced players who have versatility to fit their scheme. They are not getting involved in making the big splash and overpaying for a name. McKenzie comes from a director of player personnel background, which means he wants to build through the NFL Draft and supplement that with free agent signings. It appears to be a sound direction, but after the 4-12 debacle last season, results will have the final say.
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