The Oakland Raiders are developing a theme in their free agent signings, and it should be no surprise. From day one, general manager Reggie McKenzie has preached the importance of changing the culture in Oakland. After a decade of losing, McKenzie wanted a locker room that knows how to win. So, that is what he is building.
Including the two newest members of the team, wide receiver James Jones and offensive guard Kevin Boothe, the Raiders have signed seven free agents. Of those seven guys, all but one has played in a Super Bowl, four of them have won the Super Bowl and two of them have won it twice. That is not a bad way of going about changing the culture in the locker room.
But while the young guys in the locker room will have battle-tested veterans to look up to, one has to wonder if these guys can still perform at the levels they used to. The only one of the free agent signings that could be classified as a young guy is the one who has not been to a Super Bowl, offensive tackle Austin Howard. For the most part, these guys are on the wrong side of their careers.
Many people believe McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen have to show significant improvement in 2014 in order to save their jobs. They are forced to answer the demand to win now while also building the team for the future in a smart, cap-friendly manner. So rather than overpay for the top free agents, it appears that McKenzie’s plan to win now while building for later is through the leadership of experienced players, and in particular, ones that have experienced success.
With one week of free agency down, the Raiders have added seven solid players. It is hard to argue that the team has not improved, but it will need to improve a whole lot more than this if they want to turn things around. The defensive and offensive lines still have major holes, there is no starting free safety and they are in need of another corner. Oh, and one other position they need to figure out, nothing big … just the quarterback.
McKenzie’s plan appears to be solid so far, but there is still a long way to go before having any real idea of what this team will look like come opening day. Plenty of time for big improvements and plenty of time for big blunders. McKenzie still has a lot of work to do before this offseason can be called a success.