Oakland Raiders

Commitment to luring free agents: Raiders upgrading practice facilities, per Del Rio

Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio had lunch with local beat writers earlier this week and among the tidbits gleaned was that the Raiders will be upgrading their practice facilities.

We’ve got some plans that you’ll see unfold with the weight room and the fields that the players are going to be very excited about when they get back.

This may seem like a small thing, but it’s a brilliant move by Del Rio. The Raiders could very well be leaving the Bay Area in the next few years, so some may think that upgrading the facilities now doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But Del Rio can’t be concerned with the future, he needs to deal with the now. And one of the biggest problems with the now is that it’s extremely difficult to entice free agents to sign with Oakland.

Last offseason saw the team bring in an all-star free agent roster. The problem is, the guys were all-stars about five years before signing with the Raiders. Part of why that happened was because general manager Reggie McKenzie was trying not to spend too much on free agency — particularly in future years — but McKenzie was also hamstrung because none of the bigger named free agents would even consider donning the Silver and Black.

You can’t blame them, given the club’s recent history. The Raiders were coming off of back-to-back 4-12 seasons, they didn’t have a quarterback … or anyone that came anywhere near being an impact player, really. Throw in a dilapidated stadium that’s shared with a baseball team (which means playing on dirt early in the year). Plus, according to Del Rio, their practice facilities weren’t a whole lot better. He explained his first impressions upon seeing the facilities:

It was kind of like how I felt about taking the job I knew there was work to be done, and I’m excited about having the opportunity to mold this place and make an impact.

Upgrading the facilities will make a bigger difference than some would imagine. No, the upgrade is not going to be the deciding factor for free agents. Money, playing time, and a chance to win trump a sparkly practice field and weight room. But hey, at least the facilities won’t be a negative that potentially scares some away anymore. One can’t ignore the negative impact it could have when a player walks into a team’s facilities and immediately becomes disappointed. It’s not the kind of first impression you want to make on a guy you are trying to convince should join your team, and players talk throughout the league. Word spreads fast, and the Raiders aren’t helping themselves if they’re thought of as primitive or cheap.

It’s also a great indicator about how Del Rio is approaching the job. He seems the opposite of complacent early on as he looks to upgrade everything — facilities, coaches, players. For a team that’s won just 11 games over the past three years, that is the kind of mentality the Raiders desperately need.

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