While the majority of the Raider Nation was hoping for a big splash in free-agency, general manager Reggie McKenzie took the conservative approach instead. With the Oakland Raiders likely transitioning to a 3-4 defense under Jason Tarver, it was imperative that the right personnel was in place. So what does Mckenzie do? He first creates cap space, by releasing Al Davis favorites Michael Huff, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Dave Tollefson. In return, McKenzie signed defensive reserves Jason Hunter, Pat Sims, Vance Walker, Kaluka Maiava, and Nick Roach. You may be saying to yourself, who? And although, many of those players are not household names, I would be the first to tell you, they will provide great value on the defensive side of the ball.
Take for instance, newly acquired defensive lineman Pat Sims. The former third-round draft pick out of Auburn, was a force on the interior while in Cincinnati. The stats may prove otherwise because he did not have the “PT” (playing time), as Geno Atkins or Domata Peko, but make no mistake, Sims was crucial in short-yardage situations. He is strong at the point of attack, and plays with good leverage, a staple for a 3-4 nose tackle.
Now let us analyze one of the new linebackers, such as Kaluka Maiava. The nephew of Dwayne Johnson (“The Rock”), played his college ball at USC. Maiava was best suited as a 3-4 linebacker coming out of college, and will now re-establish that role with the Raiders. He has the speed, smarts, and athletic ability to be an ideal three-down outside linebacker, and McKenzie was smart enough to take a low risk/high-reward talent. Furthermore, Maiava also adds value on special teams, making him a double threat.
Although, many of the Raider Nation wanted a household name, I believe that McKenzie is making the right choices in turning this franchise around, giving them a B grade. The McKenzie way, is to “build through the draft,” and if he stays true to his values, you can be sure the Raiders will fill their most pressing needs in April, as they draft either cornerback Dee Milliner or defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.