The Oakland Raiders are still trying to establish who they are after their football operations were completely overhauled when former owner Al Davis passed away. The new regime, led by Mark Davis pick Reggie McKenzie, is going about things in a completely different way. Gone are the days of overpaid players and continuously re-working contracts to get cap space.
McKenzie has shown he is not scared to cut the fat off this Raiders roster. He has cut notable names such as Darrius Heyward Bey, Rolando McClain, Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly and Kaerion Wimbley while also trading away Carson Palmer. Everyone of these represented a player who didn’t come close to living up to their contract.
As the Raiders head into the offseason with the most cap space of any team in the NFL, fans should not expect McKenzie to change his ways and start overspending for guys just because he has the money. There will be good players who the Raiders choose not to re-sign because doing so would mean spending more than they believe the player is worth.
We saw this last season with Phillip Wheeler and Desmond Bryant. Both were young players with a lot of talent who could have played big roles in the rebuild. But both guys were also paid way more than they should have been by the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns respectively. There was simply no way McKenzie was going to get into a bidding war for anyone.
This offseason, McKenzie will likely show that in an even bigger way. Besides left tackle Jared Veldheer, who will be expensive but worth every penny, defensive end Lamarr Houston is easily the Raiders best player who’s heading into free agency. And if the Raiders do not sign Houston before he hits the market, there is a good chance that he is never seen in silver and black again.
Houston is a very solid run stuffing defensive end and a great role player. He is not, however, an elite defensive end who is capable of changing momentum through big plays. He would make a very good piece to build around, but is not deserving of the big time money. While he does not often get blocked off of his spot, he does not consistently get up field and disrupt run plays and does not have anywhere near elite pass rushing abilities.
While it will certainly be painful for some Raiders fans to see Houston go and it will be hard to find someone who will be as good as he is, McKenzie simply will not overpay. He will be patient and wait to find a draft pick or an underachieving free agent who can replace an overpaid player. Houston could be a guy who locks down the left end position for the Raiders for a long time, but only if he is willing to be more realistic about his talents and not demand to get paid like a top five defensive end.