Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie strayed away from the big bidding wars during 2014 NFL Free Agency, particularly the frenzy that went down surrounding the big name cornerbacks on the market in the spring as teams were forced into paying top dollar for the top talent at the position.
That meant that the team wouldn’t add a veteran star to mentor rookie DJ Hayden or to provide insurance if Hayden or another key cornerback was hurt, adding a mix of veterans on “prove it” deals similar to what he did during the 2013 offseason. Now with Hayden hurt, many are asking what McKenzie will do to make up for the loss.
According to San Francisco Chronicle Raiders beat reporter Vic Tafur, who asked McKenzie about what his plans are with Hayden on the PUP list, the Raiders general manager is weighing his options with the hope that Hayden won’t miss any regular season time before making any moves to bring in a free agent cornerback who is still on the market.
“We don’t want to push the panic button yet,” McKenzie said.
There is still hope that Hayden will be back and ready for the season-opener Sept. 7 in New York.
“We’ll see what happens the next couple of days and see how he responds and what the doctors say,” McKenzie said. “It’s still early. Our medical staff can gauge how he is doing and we’ll know the exact timeline. But they’re hopeful. It’s not been negative at all so far, and as of now we’re thinking he will be back sooner than later.”
McKenzie also told Tafur that the Hayden injury is a clear setback as any young player missing time is a setback as they need the training camp reps to continue to learn and improve, but maintains the bright future that Hayden has in front of him with the team expecting him to be a future starter.
“Yeah, it’s another big setback,” McKenzie said. “You don’t want young guys to miss any time, long or short. But he’s still got a long future ahead of him and he is going to help us this season.
“After Sunday, we’ll have a really good sense of where he is.”
Some writers have been quick to write off Hayden today (Hello, Tim Kawakami), but the fact remains that the Raiders are very much optimistic when it comes to Hayden heading into the 2014 season. Whether that optimism is smoke and mirrors remains to be seen, but there is some value in McKenzie’s faith that Hayden will be back sooner rather than later. After all, Hayden will be evaluated on what he does in the regular season and not on how his process towards the games that count went.