Tuesday, March 17, 2015

2015 Free Agency: Fizzle or Foundational?

The Raiders haven't exactly been very aggressive during this 2015 free agency (and trading) period marked by big names, loud headlines and major movements.

Now, whether or not that's a good thing is open to debate. 

The one thing you shouldn't do in free agency--and especially if you're a rebuilding team with tons of money to spend--is spin your wheels or actually get worse. 

That's a test that Reggie McKenzie failed last year, as the team didn't get better, and arguably took a step back, during last year's free agency period. 

Just consider the running back position. We lost our best running back in Rashad Jennings in free agency, and retained McFadden and signed MJD, both of whom are now gone. Despite a few fireworks from Latavius Murray, we were dead last in the NFL in rushing in 2014. Epic fail, and an awful way to support a promising rookie QB. And now here come Richardson and Helu. Yay! Or more like: Yawn.

Last June, I penned a take called The Skill Drill, questioning the obvious lack of playmakers on offense. I don't want to have to repeat that take this year. 

That said, Reggie had a questionable draft in 2013, and then raised his draft game in 2014.

If he can execute similar improvement on the free agency front (results pending at the moment, but I'm not exactly psyched right now), and continue to draft well, then he'll have the Raiders in a viable position for becoming a contender sooner rather than later. If not, the pace of improvement will continue to be glacial.

It's clear that Reggie's not overly anxious about making a splash in free agency, otherwise he would have done it by now (and don't give me this business that big-name free agents don't want to come here, if Reggie has this team on the right path, then prospective free agents will notice and buy in; if the Bills and Dolphins can get players, we can too).

You might rue some of the names that have passed us by so far, but it's pretty clear that Reggie is following the model of the Packers, Patriots, etc. Those teams don't make a habit of throwing big money at big names in free agency.

I think that this is the guiding vision of the Raiders right now. That's the only explanation for what has transpired (or not) so far over the past few years during free agency, short of some sinister secret shackles put on Reggie by Mark Davis.

So I think there's a definite plan at work. Whether or not it's a winning plan (and if it is, how long it will take to translate to wins) is up for debate. And that's where you come in. Fire away...