Dec 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and owner Mark Davis on the field before the game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Bay Area Buzz 3/14: Saffold Debacle, Reggie McKenzie, Royce White

Saffold disaster reveals disconnect in Raiders front office

Because the National Football League free agency season is largely a liar’s bazaar, the Rodger Saffold story may simply be another walk through the nonsense promenade.

But based on what we already know — which is hilarious — the Oakland Raiders have now reached the stage where they can’t even give money to people. It’s a wonder, frankly, how they get anyone to take their calls.

So what do we know? They let tackle Jared Veldheer go to Arizona because they preferred Rodger Saffold of St. Louis. They signed Saffold to a five-year deal. Then they announced that Saffold failed his physical because of a shoulder problem that requires surgery. Then Saffold’s agents, who swore up and down that the shoulder was fine, went back to the Rams, who immediately offered up a five-yaer deal of their own based on the fact that Saffold’s shoulder was, well, fine.

From there, we get into nebulous he-said-she-said areas, but here, from Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post Dispatch is literally the one that should drive some Raider fans into becoming Broncos fans, and others into giving up football entirely.

“After an initial meeting with Raiders officials, a meeting that (Saffold’s agent Alan) Herman said included the team’s chief financial officer, and an attorney representing the team, among others, Herman and (fellow agent Jared) Fox then met with Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie before they left the building.

“’He apologized profusely,’” Herman said of McKenzie. “’I shared my displeasure in very strong terms. Jared and I were sitting there in disbelief. We got out of the building and we got back to the hotel.’”

So the obvious question is, why is McKenzie apologizing? The obvious answer is because he thinks Saffold was done wrong. And who did Saffold wrong? Apparently Mark Davis, who according to reports is the one who killed the deal, leaving the Raiders once again as The Gang Who Couldn’t Load The Gun Straight, Let Alone Shoot It.

How does such dysfunction happen? How does Oakland’s $60 million in cap space turn into confederate bank notes? How does one not conclude that the next item on the team’s to-do list is a new general manager and coach?

Would anyone of good sense believe otherwise?

Screwing up the Saffold signing would not seem on its face to have that power — he is, after all, a middling offensive tackle of what is a middling NFC team — not exactly the face that launched a thousand ships, if you know what we mean and we think you do.

But at the other end of this pipeline of hilarity, it seems fairly evident that Davis no longer trusts his general manager on things like player acquisition. And even if that’s too harsh and he just thinks McKenzie merely erred in offering the contract, it must surely mean that Davis believes himself to be either the pre-eminent football decision-maker in the building, or a better doctor than his team’s doctors, who originally told Saffold the shoulder was (that word again) fine.

Either way, the phrase “Look Out Below!” leaps immediately to mind.

–Ray Ratto, CSNBayArea.com

Reggie McKenzie is bombing as Raiders GM

It has never been so clear, right out in front of everybody, at last, no denying it now, the conspiracy theorists are right:

Medical science is a Raider-hater.

Either that, or there are some (more) screwy things going on in Raidersland, I guess, though the conspiracy theorists are pretty sure it’s the medical science-hater thing.

The latest example happened Wednesday evening, when top Raiders signee Rodger Saffold — destined to be their left tackle in 2014 and possibly beyond — failed his team physical and had his five-year deal at a maximum of $42.5 million voided (and then went right back to his old team, the Rams).

Uh oh.

So the Raiders are now missing a left tackle … and that’s after letting incumbent Jared Veldheer (who most thought was better than Saffold straight up) go to Arizona for a deal less than the Raiders gave Saffold … and then had to rescind.

It’s possible that once the medical checks showed the state of Saffold’s shoulder, owner Mark Davis had second thoughts about this deal after general manager Reggie McKenzie’s previous sketchy forays with wounded players — D.J. Hayden, Matt Flynn, and others …

Or it’s possible McKenzie just didn’t know the extent of Saffold’s problem before offering all that money — and letting Veldheer walk away.

Or maybe something else happened. At this point, the end result is what matters and that means the Raiders don’t have a left tackle and that was one spot they actually had relatively covered a few days ago.

They used to have a young, talented defensive end — Lamarr Houston — but he left to sign with Chicago after the movement period began. He was far from perfect, but he was the best the Raiders had, and he was young. And he’s gone.

I will note that on Thursday, McKenzie regained a glimmer of momentum by signing proven pass rushers Justin Tuck (from the New York Giants) and LaMarr Woodley (from Pittsburgh) to two-year deals.

They’re good players, known leaders, and they will help the Raiders defense. The Raiders had the money, they might as well spend it on solid guys.

But the problem: Tuck is 30 and Woodley is 29. The guy they let go, Houston, is 26. Which one of the three do you think will still be at his peak when the Raiders might finally get good again in 2015, 2016 or whenever?

Obviously McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen need as many victories as possible this season after turning in back-to-back 4-12 records, but so far they have added zero foundation pieces or even marginal players who project to being as good in 2016 as they are now.

And they have lost two players who probably will be better in two seasons than they are now — Veldheer and Houston.

Quite a first few days of the free-agent period there, guys!

So McKenzie wasted crucial time on Saffold without getting Saffold — the Raiders got back their money but won’t get back the time.

Now they won’t get Veldheer back, either. And they are without a left tackle after ending the 2013 season with a perfectly decent one (in the eyes of most people except their own).

And McKenzie could have just franchise-tagged Veldheer and he would have been a Raider in 2014, and they could have focused on other positions of need — which is all the other positions.

So the Raiders have to go get another left tackle now (presuming they’re not ready to turn it over to Menelik Watson quite yet), either in the draft or in continuing free agency … and now all the best free-agent options are, of course, gone.

So they probably will have to use their fifth overall pick on a left tackle such as Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, who is a very good player, no question.

But that means the Raiders can’t use the pick on an edge rusher. Or a receiver. Or a quarterback such as Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater.

And when you’re as talent-poor as the Raiders, you need to do everything to keep all options open. Not limit yourself needlessly, carelessly, foolishly.

–Tim Kawakami, San Jose Mercury News

Royce White an interesting option for Kings

The snowpack didn’t amount to much this winter, and during the week downtown Reno is so eerily quiet you can almost hear your sneakers slapping on the sidewalk. But for Royce White, a former first-round draft choice trying to extend his audition with the Kings and kick-start an NBA career, the Developmental League is the perfect place for a do-over.

There is no room for drama, no time for much of anything except practices and games with the Reno Bighorns – the Kings’ D-League affiliate – and conversations with Kings officials who closely monitored his progress throughout the week.

This is a test, this is only a test. How is his conditioning? How rusty are his skills? Most importantly, how is White coping with an anxiety disorder that leads to panic attacks and a fear of flying that contributed to his nasty breakup with the Houston Rockets, the team that drafted him 16th in 2012 and traded him a year later to Philadelphia. His time with the 76ers ended similarly: He was waived in October 2013 after declining to accompany the team on a preseason trip to Spain.

In the ensuing months, White, whose contract guaranteed him $1.8 million and $1.6 million for his first two years, has been looking for another job, looking toward the Las Vegas summer league and beyond. Reluctant to offer much detail after the Bighorns lost 95-86 to the Austin Toros on Tuesday night, the Minnesota native said he hopes to join a team that needs his unusual combination of skills and is willing to accommodate his mental health concerns.

While intrigued by White’s talent, the Kings are not peering too far into the future. General manager Pete D’Alessandro described the organization’s approach as cautious and “day by day.”

“I see Royce as a mature guy who is trying to get where he needs to go,” D’Alessandro said. “There is untapped potential. Can he get there? That’s really going to be up to him. I have to give him credit. A lot of players would not have been willing to come to the D-League, and we spoke about that from the beginning. And he’s already come in here and done some good things. We’ll look at the full 10 days, then make a decision on where to go from there.”

Given White’s performances with the Bighorns – he had 10 points in 18 minutes in Tuesday’s loss and 14 points in 27 minutes in Wednesday’s 120-110 victory over the Iowa Energy – it’s likely the Kings will re-sign him and add him to the roster when the team returns from its lengthy East Coast trip after Sunday’s game at Minnesota. The Kings next home game is Tuesday against Washington.

While the move is not without risk, one that at least hints at desperation given the Kings’ continued struggles, it is consistent with D’Alessandro’s aggressive approach, one that goes accordingly: Rebuilding franchises have to work harder, pursue all options and try to upgrade the talent by conventional and unconventional means. For now, that probably means taking a small gamble and bringing White to Sacramento, where he will be introduced to some folks he already knows.

“Some of those guys I grew up with,” he said. “I played against DeMarcus Cousins. Isaiah (Thomas) scored 60 on my AAU team one year in high school, and I obviously watched Ben (McLemore) have a great year in the Big 12. And Rudy (Gay) is the player that he is. So it’s exciting for me.”

The Kings are interested in White, who entered the NBA draft after leading Iowa State in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks and being named first team All-Big 12 Conference in 2011-12, because he is extremely bright – he speaks in analytic phrases common of philosophy grad students – and because he has unusual skills for someone his size.

At 6-foot-8 and 265 pounds, he has wide shoulders and a thick frame, with most of his length in his upper body. His arms are unusually long and his hands are massive; he cuffs the ball in his palm with almost ridiculous ease. The combination of size, physique and rebounding instincts are consistent with those of a power forward. But his passing and playmaking ability – considered his greatest assets – suggest a hybrid forward. And his passion for distributing the ball is readily apparent with his assortment of outlets, one-bouncers to cutters, lobs for alley-oops.

In a Kings offense anchored by an overabundance of dribblers, his pass-first mindset would be a jolt to the system.

–Ailene Voison, Sacramento Bee

Tags: Mark Davis Oakland Raiders Reggie McKenzie Rodger Saffold Royce White Sacramento Kings

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