The Oakland Raiders are a team in constant transition. General manager Reggie McKenzie made it clear when he took the job that he was going to break the team down to fix the cap situation before he did anything else. Clearly he wanted to win in the meantime, but that is hard to do when working with little to no cap space. Those first two years of the McKenzie regime were incredibly painful for Raiders fans as the team was only able to amass eight wins in two years.
This year, with the most cap space in the league and more draft picks than they’ve had in years, the Raiders looked poised to bounce back. The offseason has seen McKenzie make a large number of signings, with a number of themes to the signings becoming clear. With the exception of Austin Howard, who is still fairly young, all of the additions are older veterans on the back sides of their careers. But most of those players were truly great in their primes. McKenzie was clearly trying to instill a winning culture in the locker room, but with so many guys on the wrong side of their career arc, one has to wonder whether they can still form the foundation of a good team.
McKenzie also focused much of his attention on the offensive and defensive lines. Both units were big time weak spots for the Raiders in 2013 and both have been upgraded significantly this year. The offensive line was ravaged with injuries in 2013 and just plain wasn’t very good when healthy. This year’s crop not only has much more talent, it’s much deeper as well. The defensive line suffered from a distinct lack of pass rushing ability in 2013, and McKenzie added three pass rushing specialists in Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith.
But there is another theme that — intentional or not — is developing in Oakland. Of the 12 new players added to the team, eight will have at least one familiar face in the locker room. There are four pairs of added players who are coming from the same team. James Jones and CJ Wilson from the Green Bay Packers, Antonio Smith and Matt Schaub from the Houston Texans, Justin Tuck and Kevin Boothe from the New York Giants, as well as the secondary duo from the San Francisco 49ers, Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown. Aside from the Niners cornerbacks, each pair has one offensive and one defensive player so the chemistry will not be on the field. But the comfort of the locker room and its ability to gel quickly could be helped by having so many guys enter their new team already knowing another member.