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Tuesday, March 11, 2014
What, exactly, is Reggie McKenzie thinking?

By Paul Gutierrez

The Oakland Raiders have lost what many saw as their top three unrestricted free agents in left tackle Jared Veldheer, who is headed to the Arizona Cardinals, defensive end Lamarr Houston, who is going to the Chicago Bears, and running back Rashad Jennings, who Tweeted he was in line to play for the New York Giants.

Plus, the Raiders are set to pay oft-injured offensive lineman Rodger Saffold a contract worth $42.5 million, with $21 million guaranteed, over five years, and they re-signed oft-injured running back Darren McFadden to a one-year deal worth up to $4 million.

Fans are scratching their heads. Especially in light of comments made by general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen this offseason.

Asked in January if he felt “good” about the chances of both Houston and Veldheer returning, McKenzie said simply, “Yes, I do.”

Allen was more expansive about Houston at the NFL combine, saying, “He’s certainly one of the guys we would like to have back. Anytime you have a young player that has the potential to continue to get better, and there were some things he was able to do this year ... he’s really a multi-dimensional player. He plays the run really well and he also has the ability to affect the passer, although he hasn’t had huge sack numbers throughout his career, he has been up there as far as pressuring the quarterback and being able to get hits on the quarterback. He’s certainly one of the guys that we want to try and get back.”

Asked if Jennings was somebody he wanted to retain, McKenzie said, “Yes.”

But when asked about McFadden, McKenzie gave the impression the Raiders were done with him. “Darren’s going to be a free agent and there’s been communication with his agent, [who’s] going to see what his market is,” McKenzie said. “And that’s the thing, when you’re talking about the games that he’s missed. He has no idea ... what his market value will be and I couldn’t tell you what the other 31 teams think, and his agent is leaning toward trying to figure out what that its. So, we’ll see.”

McKenzie, who entered free agency with nearly $65 million in salary cap space, has seemingly gone against everything he’s said on the record regarding his key free agents.

Of course, no personnel person worth their salt is going to let you know exactly what they’re thinking. That affects bargaining power, right? Then again, with the Raiders’ moves on the first day of free agency, it’s hard to figure out exactly what McKenzie is thinking ... unless, of course, Veldheer, Houston and Jennings simply wanted to move on.

But Veldheer’s mother Tweeted out the following to inquisitive fans:

J is off to AZ. We're excited about the future. THANKYOU to Raider Nation for being so great to us! Sadly negotiations were not even close

— mary veldheer (@mommagolfer) March 11, 2014

and this:

@MichaelZipser sorry mike. We will miss Oakland. I don't think RM really wanted him back. The offer was nowhere near the Saffold deal.

— mary veldheer (@mommagolfer) March 11, 2014

and this:

@raiders343 A fair offer from the Raiders never happened. Nothing near the Saffold deal. We will always d Raider Nation.

— mary veldheer (@mommagolfer) March 11, 2014

and finally, this:

@GiancarloKing @HBNadolny @Jim_VeldheerThanks so much. We are grateful to the Davis family for all the love they've shown. RM cleaning house

— mary veldheer (@mommagolfer) March 11, 2014

Oh, and keep in mind what McKenzie said about Charles Woodson, who has also made it clear he wants to return to Oakland: “I thought he was very solid and could contribute and I told him so. And I told him I would like to talk about getting him back here.”

Stay tuned.