Over the past several years, the Oakland Raiders found themselves in the unenviable position of having to focus on free agency as a way to help build their team. It’s a situation other squads have found themselves in over the years, and it rarely works out too well.
Of the franchises that have consistently competed for championships during the salary cap era, they all have one thing in common. Build through the draft and supplement in free agency. The Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots would all be perfect case studies.
Now, coming off a 12-win season and their first playoff appearance since 2002, the Raiders have joined that group of teams. Simply put, general manager Reggie McKenzie and Co. don’t have a lot of holes to fill. And the ones that they have to fill, the team can address in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft.
According to Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Carr, this is a good thing.
“For so long, our fans were looking forward to free agency. They were chomping at the bit. They couldn’t wait for it, all the way until this year,” Carr said Friday, via CSN Bay Area. “Now, Reggie (McKenzie) and (head coach Jack Del Rio) and our front office has done such a good job adding talent through the draft or free agency leading up to this, that we have a solid team. Now we just need a couple pieces to come in and help. Now we’re in a spot where our front office can take care of their own and do those types of things.”
It was surely a process for the Raiders to get here. Flush with north of $100 million in cap room two years ago, the Raiders were not an attractive free-agent destination.
This led to the team overpaying veterans on front-loaded contracts that they could get out from under in short order. Adding the likes of Nate Allen, Curtis Lofton and Malcolm Smith, Oakland sought out for short-term fixes while creating long-term sustainability under the cap. None of those players are currently with the team.
Once the Raiders improved on the field, it enabled the team to go after longer-term options in free agency. This is to say, players coming off their rookie contracts. Contributors for when the team would ultimately contend. Enter into the equation the likes of Kelechi Osemele and Bruce Irvin last march.
All the while, the team’s young core was improving on the field. It’s the happy medium few teams are able to find. For Carr, that’s the biggest takeaway here.
“That is a really good thing to have. As exciting as free agency is, if you don’t have to be involved, I think it’s a really good problem to have for an organization,” Carr continued.
Oakland’s biggest free-agent addition thus far this year is reserve offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse, who the team signed to a one-year, $2 million deal on Friday.
While the Raiders will surely be hunting for veterans in the bargain bin, there’s no reason for this team to pay top dollar in free agency anymore. It surely is the antithesis of what we saw from this franchise during its 15-year playoff drought.