Sep 30, 2014; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie at a press conference to introduce Tony Sparano (not pictured) as Raiders interim coach at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Despite the memorable Oakland Raiders victory last Thursday night that has given Raider fans, players, coaches, beat writers and front office personnel a desperately needed breath of fresh air, the 1-10 Raiders are likely candidates to end the season with the worst record in the NFL. When a team finishes with the worst record in the league, there are usually dozens of holes on the roster that need to be filled, and one way to do that is by effective use of free agency.
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Free agency, while exciting for fans, is not the way that elite, consistent franchises build their teams. If you look around the league at the core personnel of teams like the Patriots, the Steelers, the Packers, the Colts and other consistent winners in the NFL, you’ll see that free agency has always been a means to add some nice pieces to a core group of draft selections. Reggie McKenzie has adopted this approach so far in Oakland, using short-term contracts that are light on guaranteed money to bring in aging veterans to essentially act as placeholders and mentors to the young players he has drafted and intends to develop. While the popular narrative is that this strategy has failed (and in a 1-10 season it’s hard to argue that it hasn’t), it has allowed him to field a team of at least competent NFL players while developing two very solid draft classes from 2013 and 2014.
While we can count on Reggie to again use his high draft picks to great effect in 2015, he will likely begin to move in the 2015 free agency market more actively than in years past to add some quality depth, keep a certain amount of veteran presence on the team, and fill key positions, banking against the unpredictability of the draft process. Here are some ways he may do that in this upcoming offseason, some less likely than others: