Oakland Raiders Quietly Made an Impact with Volume in Free Agency

Ndamukong Suh, DeMarco Murray and Randall Cobb were among the big fish the Oakland Raiders tried and failed to land in free agency. Even a truckload of cash as bait couldn’t change the fact that general manager Reggie McKenzie was still fishing with a twig and dental floss.

Quietly, McKenzie did reel in a stream of upgrades early in free agency, which cumulatively may be enough meat to feed a roster hungry for talent. It’s about the best he could do in an environment that scares away the few free agents worth dipping into long-term reserves to catch.

Unlike last year, McKenzie signed players who are still in their primes. The Raiders do still have several free agents they brought in last year, so the younger age of the players signed this year coupled with a new coaching staff could be just the thing to get the Raiders back on track.

Maybe it’s a good thing the Raiders didn’t throw fat stacks of cash at only a few players and instead took the approach that more than twice as many upgrades will make a bigger overall impact. Free agency isn’t the right place to build a team, and many of the big free agents of today are the cap casualties of tomorrow.

By spreading out the money, the Raiders are also spreading out the risk. Whiffing on a high-profile free agents can be costly both on and off the field, but players can also get hurt. The exorbitant guarantees required to bring in certain free agents can wreak havoc on the salary cap, but a couple misses on second-tier free agents should leave the team in good shape as long as they also draft well.

The Raiders have also structured contracts wisely, which makes it easier for them to move on from mistakes after a season or two if necessary. No general manager hits on every move, so team-friendly contract structures ensure the team doesn’t go through a period of salary-cap issues when a few of them don’t work ou...

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