NFL Nation: Reggie McKenzie

The Oakland Raiders' offseason roster is at its limit of 90 players.

After a few fits and starts to begin free agency, the Raiders rebuilt their offensive and defensive lines and addressed the secondary and offensive backfield while adding veterans with championship pedigrees.

In the draft, Oakland scooped up the best player available in linebacker Khalil Mack, who has been nothing short of impressive in the offseason workouts, while picking up the franchise's quarterback of the future in Derek Carr (who has been elevated to second string) and a potential starter at left guard in Gabe Jackson.

[+] EnlargeReggie McKenzie
Bob Stanton/USA TODAY SportsRaiders GM Reggie McKenzie still has $10 million in salary-cap space to use for roster upgrades.
All draft picks are signed, so there will be no training camp holdout drama.

But if you think the Raiders are done tinkering with the 90-man roster, think again. General manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen have said all along they expect to make moves that, in their estimation, make the Raiders a better football team.

Plus, they have money to play with when entertaining such ideas. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Raiders still have more than $10.7 million in salary-cap space. But again, to paraphrase McKenzie's refrain, just because he has money in his pocket does not mean he's going to spend it … on junk.

Sure, $10 million may sound like a lot, and the Raiders are far from a perfect unit -- Allen himself equated his roster situation to a kid sitting on Santa's lap and not getting everything he asked for -- but Oakland's cap surplus pales in comparison to the likes of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have more than $27 million in cap space. Yet it's enough to make the New Orleans Saints and their relatively meager $1.9 million in cap space squint with jealousy.

Still, are there any free agents still out there who would put the Raiders -- coming off consecutive 4-12 seasons and with the NFL's toughest strength of schedule in 2014 -- over the top?

Meh.

Yes, the Raiders could still use a true No. 1 receiver. They could also use some veteran help at tight end. And sure, with D.J. Hayden's injury, another tried and tested cornerback would seemingly fit the bill, which is why the Raiders non-pursuit of Brandon Flowers was a head-scratcher of sorts. Instead, Flowers went from one division rival (the Kansas City Chiefs) to another (the San Diego Chargers).

McKenzie has already made an assortment of minor roster moves this offseason, and with more than $10 million still at his disposal, what he decides to do with it will tell you all you need to know about how he feels about the current roster.

Should McKenzie stand pat, or are there players out there he should target? Would it be more prudent to possibly use that salary-cap space on camp cuts?

Raiders offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
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With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Oakland Raiders' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeKhalil Mack
AP Photo/Michael ConroThe Raiders were happy to land versatile linebacker Khalil Mack in the first round.
Best move: Letting the NFL draft come to them. By sitting tight in the first round, the Raiders saw playmaking linebacker Khalil Mack fall into their laps at No. 5 overall. By sitting tight in the second round, the Raiders saw their quarterback of the future fall into their laps at No. 36 overall. General manager Reggie McKenzie gets high marks for not overthinking things and staying true to his gut and drafting for need as well as snagging the best player available a year after trading down and taking injured cornerback D.J. Hayden.

Riskiest move: Call it semantics or claim that someone -- either McKenzie or the player’s mom -- was not telling the whole truth as to whether the Raiders presented a respectable offer, but the Raiders allowing left tackle Jared Veldheer to leave and reunite with quarterback Carson Palmer in Arizona was not a good way to begin free agency. In Veldheer, the Raiders had a known commodity. In his wake Oakland had to rebuild the offensive line. Replacing Veldheer was seemingly an unnecessary distraction, and though Donald Penn seems a suitable replacement, left tackle will be a need again soon enough.

Most surprising move: Getting an established, respected and accomplished veteran like two-time Super Bowl-winning defensive end Justin Tuck to buy in early and sign with a rebuilding team in the Raiders. The signing of Tuck, who put pen to paper a day after Austin Howard was signed, gave legitimacy to Oakland’s efforts in free agency and opened the doors for the likes of other vets LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, James Jones and Maurice Jones-Drew to also choose Oakland as their destination ... without Oakland overpaying. They are all on the back ends of their careers, but they should have enough left in the tank.

About face? Early in his tenure, McKenzie spoke of signing “high character” players with little to no baggage. So it was a surprise when he spent the third day of the draft taking players with questionable pasts, be it legal spats or getting kicked out of school or off a team. It reached a crescendo with this week’s signing of oft-troubled receiver Greg Little. But McKenzie believes he has built a strong enough locker room to withstand a wild card or two. Besides, if a guy can contribute and has convinced McKenzie he has changed, he deserves another shot, right?
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


ALAMEDA, Calif. -- A wrap-up of the Oakland Raiders' draft. Click here for a full list of Raiders' draftees.

[+] EnlargeDerek Carr
Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesDrafting Derek Carr could be a risky move for the Raiders, as the team sees the quarterback taking more of a back-seat role in 2014.
Best move: Sitting tight the first two rounds. OK, so, I’m cheating a little bit here but given general manager Reggie McKenzie’s proclivity for wheeling and dealing, no one would have been surprised had the Raiders traded down for more picks. But with the way the draft unfolded, they merely had to let linebacker Khalil Mack fall into their laps at No. 5 overall and quarterback Derek Carr at No. 36 overall. In Mack, the Raiders got an instant difference-maker on the defensive side of the ball, a player who many observers saw as being the potential No. 1 overall pick. In Carr, the Raiders made a gutsy move in taking a player who, if all goes well for them, will not see the field next year, but could be the team’s franchise quarterback.

Riskiest move: Let’s go with the Carr selection. No, not because it shoudn’t pan out; it should. But because as the Raiders embark upon Year 1 of their reconstruction, they needed as many immediate impact players as possible in this draft. And Carr, by the Raiders’ own plan and admission, will not contribute much -- if anything -- in 2014. From an immediate on-field impact standpoint, there were other players at other positions available. The risk here, then, is McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen drafting the QB of the future for a future that, if the bottom falls out this year, they will not be a part of in Oakland.

Most surprising move: Since taking over as Raiders GM, McKenzie has made a point to bring in what he terms high-character, low-maintenance players. Last year, he stuck his neck out for defensive tackle Stacy McGee, who had DUI and marijuana incidents, but he stayed out of trouble and began to make an on-field impact late in the season. This year, McKenzie used a fourth-rounder (No. 116 overall) to draft Utah defensive back Keith McGill, a huge cornerback at 6-feet-3, 213 pounds who has some personal baggage besides giving up 29 completions on 59 passes his way, per STATS, and getting just one interception in two years at Utah after being converted from free safety. In 2012, McGill was arrested for DUI and possession of stolen property and missed nearly the entire season with a shoulder injury. McGill, 25, was all-Pac 12 last season with 12 pass deflections. “I’ve been trying to stay clean and trying to show everybody that that was the past and that’s exactly what it was,” McGill said in a conference call Saturday. “All the teams that passed on me, they’re going to realize it was a big mistake and the Oakland Raiders are going to realize that it was a really good draft pick.”

File it away: McKenzie likes to keep things close to his vest, but judging by the size and power of the linemen he’s taken in this, his third draft, he showed his hand, especially with the selections of left guard Gabe Jackson (6-foot-3, 336 pounds) in the third round and defensive tackle Justin Ellis (6-2, 334) in the fourth. The Raiders are returning to a grind-it-out mantra on both sides of the ball. And keep this in mind -- rather than take defensive end Michael Sam, the SEC defensive player of the year, the Raiders used the second of their three seventh-round picks on a defensive end who did not play last season after being dismissed from his team for detrimental conduct in Illinois State’s Shelby Harris.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie confirmed to ESPN.com Friday that newly acquired defensive lineman Antonio Smith recently underwent a "minor" surgery after a weight-lifting mishap during the team’s voluntary workout program.

"He'll be fine," McKenzie said, without elaborating on the body part.

Smith, 32, played defensive end for the Houston Texans the previous five seasons, racking up 27 sacks for the Texans. He signed with Oakland as an unrestricted free agent on March 14 and many expect him to see time inside at left defensive tackle in the Raiders' 4-3 defense, or to rotate with Justin Tuck at left defensive end.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Minutes after selecting Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack with the fifth pick of the 2014 NFL draft, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was asked if he thought his quarterback of the future might still be available.

Mind you, this was when Blake Bortles had been the only quarterback taken.

“Yes,” McKenzie said softly, “there’s an opportunity for that. Yes.”

[+] EnlargeDerek Carr
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesDerek Carr passed for 5,082 yards with 50 TDs and eight interceptions in 13 starts last season.
So by the time the dust cleared on the first round Thursday night, Bortles, who was taken third overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, was joined by Johnny Manziel, who fell to 22nd and the Cleveland Browns, and Teddy Bridgewater, who went 32nd in the final pick of the night to the Minnesota Vikings, who traded up to get him.

Might Fresno State’s Derek Carr, who has long been linked to the Raiders, still be on the docket when Oakland is scheduled to make the fourth pick of the night, No. 36 overall, or will the Houston Texans, who badly need a quarterback and lead off the second round, make it a family affair by drafting the younger brother of the man they made the first overall pick in 2002, David Carr?

From the Raiders’ perspective, it’s no secret they believe they are set with Matt Schaub for at least the next two years, and they even feel comfortable with backups Matt McGloin and Trent Edwards. But the feeling is also they would like to draft a project in the middle rounds, someone like Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage. Currently, the Raiders’ fourth-round pick is at No. 107 overall.

One plausible scenario has the Raiders, who do not have picks in the fifth or sixth rounds but hold three in the seventh, trading back in the second round to acquire more selections, especially if they are not truly in love with a player at No. 4 in the second round today.

McKenzie, though, said “no deal was presented, only interest” for the No. 5 overall pick on Thursday. With it not clear if there will be a market today for the Raiders’ second-rounder, they have options.

Mack certainly addressed a need and was the best player available as well.

So, besides Carr, who passed for 5,082 yards with 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions and completed 68.7 percent of his passes in 13 starts last season, who is a potential target for the Raiders in the second round?

Here is a look at five possible prospects:

USC receiver Marqise Lee was the 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner as a sophomore, but had a down junior year. At just under 6-foot and 192 pounds, there are questions about his durability, but he is a playmaker after the catch.

Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is massive at 6-7, 321 pounds, but there are concerns about his surgically repaied knee. He is considered an ideal fit to work in a power-blocking scheme.

Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman is a disruptive if inconsistent force at a tick under 6-6 and 310 pounds. His athleticism might force a move to defensive end.

Utah cornerback Keith McGill is big at 6-3, 213 pounds, and his long arms make him an ideal fit for press coverage. Still, he only had one interception in two seasons for the Utes.

Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste is also big for the position at 6-3, 218 pounds and had seven interceptions in 19 starts for the Cornhuskers.
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen saw something a little familiar in the game of Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack when he flipped on the tape.

After he fell in love, that is.

A skill set similar to that of Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller.

Sure, Allen only had Miller for one season, his rookie campaign, but what a year it was. Miller was the NFL's defensive rookie of the year after racking up 11.5 sacks and forcing four fumbles with Allen as his defensive coordinator.

"Absolutely, I saw a lot of similarities between him and Von Miller," Allen said of Mack after the Raiders selected him with the No. 5 overall pick Thursday night.

[+] EnlargeKhalil Mack
Kirk Irwin/Getty ImagesKhalil Mack had 10.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss while with the University of Buffalo last season.
"And the thing that really was attractive about Khalil Mack was the fact that he understands how to rush the passer. And he understands how to rush the passer with power."

Mack, recruited by only two colleges out of high school, was the MAC's defensive player of the year last season after recording 10.5 sacks with 19 tackles for a loss. In fact, his 75 career tackles for a loss are the most in FBS since the statistic was tracked nationally in 2000.

Still, the furthest West he ever played in college was in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho, to end his college career. Before that, it was at Baylor.

"The conversation was crazy," Mack said of the call he received when the Raiders tabbed him. "I started on the phone with an assistant or a scout, and then I got on the phone with Reggie McKenzie, and then Dennis Allen told me how he wants to use me. It's a blessing to have this opportunity. I'm going to make the most of it."

Mack was not aware yet of the Miller comparison, but he was excited to join the likes of new Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck.

"Justin Tuck, man, how about that?" Mack said. "Playing with him is a blessing. Knowing how good he is and what he's done, it'll be good to learn from him. I can't tell you how excited I am."

Mack would appear to be a natural fit at weakside linebacker in the Raiders' 4-3 base defense, potentially making veteran Kevin Burnett expendable. But while Allen would not comment on a specific role for the rookie yet, McKenzie said Mack would have an immediate impact. Especially with the Raiders having an NFL-low 12 sacks with four or fewer pass-rushers last season, per data from ESPN Stats & Information.

"The guy has the size," McKenzie said. "He has the length. He's got speed. He's a playmaker. We'll find a way to put him on the field and get some production out of him."

Added Allen: "He'll have his hand on the ground some, too. I envision his role being very similar to what we did with Von Miller."

The Raiders are banking on similar results.
Totally spit-balling here, like just about every other draft prognosticater out there, but if the Dallas Cowboys are as hot and heavy for Johnny Manziel as Twitter would have you believe, the Oakland Raiders might be sitting in prime position.

So long as two scenarios play out.

Manziel
The first, obviously, is that Manziel is still on the board when it comes time for the Raiders’ choice at No. 5 overall.

The second, is that both Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins are already gone, because if either of those guys are still available, that has to be Oakland’s pick, at least, in this corner.

In that combined development, though, the Raiders could reach out to Jerry Jones and offer up that No. 5 selection for a boatload of picks. Using the Trade Value Chart, the No. 5 pick is worth 1,700 points. The No. 16 pick, which is where the Cowboys currently sit, is worth 1,000 points.

So, for the swap to work, the Cowboys would have to come up with 700 more points in draft picks, or a player. Dallas’ second-rounder this year (No. 47 overall) is worth 430 points and its third-rounder (No. 78) is worth 200 points, while its fourth-rounder (No. 119) is worth 56 points. That gives the Raiders two seconds, two thirds and two fourths, but still nothing in the fifth or sixth rounds to go with three seventh-rounders. It also still leaves the Cowboys needing 14 points to make up the difference.

Of course, the Trade Value Chart is more of a guideline for teams than a hard fast rule, and the Cowboys would have to stomach gutting the middle of their draft, though they could conceivably involve future picks in such a deal.

Plus, from the Raiders’ perspective, going from No. 5 to No. 16 is a pretty big drop (last year, they went from No. 3 to No. 12). Because as has been mentioned in this corner, Oakland needs an impact player with its first pick, rather than a developmental one like in general manager Reggie McKenzie’s first two seasons in Tony Bergstrom and D.J. Hayden.

So who could potentially be there at No. 16? Think UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr, or Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, or Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III, or USC receiver Marqise Lee, or even Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.

Or should the Raiders simply stay put at No. 5 and take the best player available?
Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie wants to draft for the future, but he also needs an impact player with that first pick at No. 5 overall tonight who can step in and contribute immediately.

Basically, the opposite of McKenzie's first two drafts. In 2012 he did not have a pick until the final selection of the third round, which he used to draft Tony Bergstrom and his nine career games. In 2013, when McKenzie traded back from No. 3 to No. 12, he took the injured D.J. Hayden, who would appear in just eight games.

SportsNation

If Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins are all gone by the time Oakland's first-round turn comes up at No. 5, which of these things should the Raiders do?

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The advice from this corner? With a seeming wish list topped by purported consensus No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney, the South Carolina defensive end, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack and Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, the Raiders should simply pick whichever one is still on the board when it is their turn.

Hey, it happened in our ESPN NFL Nation mock draft, Watkins fell into Oakland's lap.

But what if the three playmakers are gone in the first four selections?

The feeling here is the Raiders should try to trade back a few spots to acquire draft picks -- Oakland is without selections in the fifth and sixth rounds and have three picks in the seventh round -- and target someone like Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald or Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans.

Still, there's no guarantee a trade partner could be found. And if not, what then?

It's been apparent for weeks the Raiders are not much interested in using the No. 5 pick on a quarterback. Still. you have to wonder if McKenzie has something up his sleeve.

Vote for what you think the Raiders should do at No. 5 if Clowney, Mack and Watkins are all gone.
Reggie McKenzieBob Stanton/USA TODAY SportsOakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie needs to find a playmaker with his first-round pick.
And with the fifth pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Oakland Raiders select ...

Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins? Reggie McKenzie can only hope.

Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack? McKenzie can only dream.

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney? Let's not get crazy now.

This much is true, though: In advance of the draft getting underway Thursday at Radio City Music Hall in New York, McKenzie needs to get his first pick right, and the Raiders general manager has no excuses this time around.

McKenzie's initial draft in Oakland saw him without a selection until the end of the third round, No. 95 overall, which he used on offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom, who has played in nine games. Total.

Last year, McKenzie had the No. 3 overall pick and was so enamored by injured cornerback D.J. Hayden that he would have taken him third had he not found a willing trade partner in the Miami Dolphins to move back to No. 12, where Hayden was still available. Forget for a second, if you can, that Hayden had undergone heart surgery the previous November after a practice collision nearly killed him. In pure football terms, the Raiders' biggest need was seemingly on the interior of the defensive line and Star Lotulelei and Sharrif Floyd were available.

Hayden played catch-up all season and appeared in just eight games before going on injured reserve with a groin injury. But even if Hayden turns into the second coming of Mike Haynes and the Raiders figured Season 1 of Hayden's four-year rookie contract was a wash when they drafted him, it would be a strange philosophy for a franchise in Year 2 of a two-year "deconstruction," no? Think of it this way: What team would essentially surrender the first quarter of a football game, banking on the final three quarters?

Now, this is not to suggest that McKenzie’s job is on the line with this draft -- coach Dennis Allen's seat figures to get warmer first -- but he has a lot of work to do to re-establish trust from a leery fan base after a pair of 4-12 seasons. Even if owner Mark Davis knew how tough the first two years were going to be.

If the Raiders are to get a jump-start on Year 1 of their "reconstruction," it begins with their first pick in this draft.

So, yeah, if either Watkins or Mack is still on the board when the Raiders' turn comes up at No. 5, the choice is obvious -- it's whichever playmaker is there. Oakland has so many holes on defense, and with both McKenzie and Allen being defense-minded guys, Mack probably would be the call.

But if Mack is gone and Watkins is still there, the Raiders would be ecstatic with a game-changing receiver who would help make new quarterback Matt Schaub's transition smoother.

But what if both are gone in the first four picks?

That decision should be just as easy -- trade back; even if one of the top offensive tackles is still there, as they should be. Because while either Auburn's Greg Robinson (physical freak), Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews (product of a pro lineage) or Michigan’s Taylor Lewan (nasty disposition but with potential legal baggage) would add to the O-line mix to help deal with the departure of Jared Veldheer, McKenzie did enough to address the offensive line in free agency. At least for the immediate future.

Of course, trading back is easier said than done.

Consider: The Raiders are not all that interested in Johnny Manziel the football player. The ticket-selling circus? Maybe. But drafting Manziel at No. 5 would torpedo the Schaub move. While Oakland has gone all-in with the former Houston Texans Pro Bowler, the first time Schaub throws an interception, the fans would don their silver and black apparel, pitchforks and torches and march to the Coliseum for Johnny Football and Schaub, in need of a fresh start and renewed confidence, would be looking over his shoulder. The Raiders just endured that last season with the Matt Flynn-Terrelle Pryor-Matt McGloin-Tyler Wilson fiasco.

McKenzie and his staff may not have garnered a lot of trust in their QB evaluating abilities, but at least McKenzie’s vision is clear. He wants a veteran at quarterback and should draft another drama-free old soul who was a college winner in, say, the fourth round, because the Raiders are currently without picks in the fifth and sixth rounds to learn at the knee of Schaub. Not a polarizing rock star. So think Alabama's AJ McCarron. Or Pitt's Tom Savage. Or even San Jose State's David Fales. Unless Fresno State's Derek Carr is still there in the second round when the Raiders go at No. 36 overall, pending any trades, of course. Then all bets would be off.

Now, the Raiders can't trade that far back from No. 5, not if they still want an immediate difference-maker.

The Detroit Lions at No. 10 could be motivated to move up in front of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who draft seventh, in a race to get Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans. And at 10, Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald should still be on the board for the Raiders.

Then again, the 6-foot-5, 231-pound Evans might make a solid value pick for the Raiders as an Andre Johnson 2.0 for Schaub.

"It's," McKenzie said slowly last week, "a chess match."

For his sake, you just hope he's the one yelling, "checkmate."
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie spoke with reporters Thursday in his lone media availability before the NFL draft next week. Following are highlights from McKenzie’s 25-minute news conference.

On if he could rank he top-5 players in the draft: Absolutely…not. (laughter).

On if Johnny Manziel is harder to evaluate than other quarterbacks: I’m not going to say it’s harder to evaluate. You put on the film and you evaluate like any other quarterback. Now, does he do things different? You could look at every quarterback and you’re going to find a different thing that they do. So to say that he’s totally different, no.

[+] EnlargeSchaub
AP Photo/Ben MargotRaiders GM Reggie McKenzie said he'll still look at quarterbacks in the NFL draft despite having acquired veteran Matt Schaub in the offseason.
On if he’s impressed with Blake Bortles, and if so, in what ways: Well, Blake is a, he’s one of those guys that came on at the end as far as committing as an underclassmen. So, a lot of work has been done, not only with him, but with all these underclassmen. We had 100 or so underclassmen come in. But with Bortles, just like all these quarterbacks these guys are talking about, you guys are talking about, we did everything that we had to do as far as his background and all the due process that we do. But, guys, it’s really no different than any other underclassman, any other quarterback. We evaluate him just like the rest of the guys.

On if it’s harder to evaluate a guy like Khalil Mack because he did not play against a high level of competition: It’s been done in the past. There’s a lot of good players that come from small schools and they do well, just like big schools. Now, he can’t help who he plays against. But he’s played against some good competition.

On if he’d be surprised to end the draft with the same seven picks with which he entered the draft: I wish I had the answer to that. Knowing that these are the picks I have going in, whether I lose one or two because I move up, or I gain a couple, this draft thing is, when you've got 31 other teams, you have no idea who they want at a certain time. That’s what makes it fun -- the uncertainty. But I cannot plan that at all. I can just be hardheaded and stubborn and say, ‘I’m not moving.’ But that’s not my style. My phone line stays open on draft day.

On if he could say what the Raiders’ greatest areas of need are: Then I’d be telling you what I’m going to go after. I can’t tell you that … you won’t tell anybody? (laughter) We’re just going to try to add some impact players, just add to the foundation that we’ve built. We want some good players, some playmakers. And whoever’s available at the spot that we’re picking, that’s what we’re going with. We’re going to and some impact players. This is a good draft.

On if he’s open to trading down in the first round: I’m open to anything. Whether I stay at this pick (No. 5) depends on so many things. I cannot say what I’m going to do without a doubt right now.

On how much stock he puts in 40-yard dash times: It’s important. But like I always said before, so is being a football player. And you talk about instincts, and your ability to read and react. It’s being a football player, more so than the 40 time.

On if he feels extra pressure to draft guys to help win right now, rather than getting guys for the future when you’re potentially not here: You draft for the future. You don’t draft for right now. That’s not the way you do it. That’s not the way I do it.

On if when taking the best player available, how much he takes into account depth at that position, say receiver? If it’s deep, does he consider taking someone later on or is it strictly by the board? No, it really depends on how good that receiver is. It really does. If I feel that this receiver is close to the next, yeah, I’ll be more inclined to say, 'OK, we can wait.' We feel like these two guys are similar. But if I feel like this guy is an impact player, I’m not going to bypass him just because there’s some other good, solid receivers. When you’re comparing great to good, I’d rather have great.

On if the Raiders being seemingly set at QB with Matt Schaub means they don’t have to draft one: What it does is just give us some stability at that position, and we needed that. Because we traded for Schaub does that mean we’re going to bypass a guy that we’ve got graded a certain way? No.

On how easy or hard it was to trade QB Terrelle Pryor to Seattle: It’s always hard when you not only try to trade a player but to release a player. That, to me, is the toughest part of my job, is to let a player know that he’s no longer a part of the team, however that happens. It’s a difficult thing. It was difficult.

On if there was ever a thought or discussion about changing Pryor’s position: It was always, as long as he was here, he was going to be a quarterback.

McKenzie’s closing statement: Guys, you know we have talked about the team. The foundation has been laid. We’re working toward progress, continuous progress. There’s progress that began, really, the foundation, since I got here and working to get things, the culture right, the chemistry. This offseason it’s starting to come to fruition. We brought in some players to compete, to make us better. When you bring in some good players it fosters competition. Competition makes us better. This year we will be better.
It is becoming clearer by the day the Oakland Raiders' wish list in the NFL draft goes something like this: defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, receiver Sammy Watkins, linebacker Khalil Mack, offensive tackle Greg Robinson.

But what if, as is a very good possibility, all four of those players are gone when it comes time for the Raiders to pick at No. 5?

According to ESPN NFL Insider Todd McShay, there are four "elite" players in this draft -- yes, Clowney, Watkins, Mack and Robinson -- before a slight drop-off begins.

[+] EnlargeJake Matthews
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsTeams in need of an offensive tackle may be eager to trade up with the Raiders to select Texas A&M's Jake Matthews.
Sure, Oakland could stay put and stay "safe" with Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews. But the Raiders are also intrigued by Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald and there have been rumblings about Oakland liking Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan more than Robinson. Still, are either of those guys, or even Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans, worthy of the fifth overall pick?

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie loves his draft picks, and while he now has seven at his disposal, he does not have one in either the fifth or sixth rounds, though he does have three in the seventh.

Trading back in the first round, as Oakland did last year in going from No. 3 to No. 12, could again be in the offing for McKenzie.

But who makes an appealing trade partner?

The way McShay sees it, any of the four teams slated to pick immediately after the Raiders -- the Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills -- could be, as well as the New York Giants, at No. 12.

"If some of the rumors you hear about Tampa legitimately wanting Johnny Manziel [are true and] he's there at 5, I guess that could be a possibility," McShay said in a conference call Thursday.

But McShay is not necessarily a fan of the top quarterbacks in this draft.

"There are four elite players and I think it would be a mistake to draft any of these quarterbacks over those four players," said McShay, referencing Clowney, Watkins, Mack and Robinson again as his "elite" players.

As for the Vikings, who pick eighth, McShay thinks they could get antsy if they want a quarterback.

"If it's Blake Bortles, if it's Johnny Manziel, whoever it is, if [the Vikings] were to look and say, ‘You know what, we need to move up three spots and just get our guy,'" McShay said, then Minnesota might make a good trade partner.

And Atlanta?

"Let's say Greg Robinson goes in the first four picks," McShay said, "Atlanta's going there at 6, and they're highly concerned about not getting, I think, Jake Matthews. Just my opinion. They could want to move up one spot just to solidify to make sure no other team moves up and goes and gets Jake Matthews, because I think he fits better in terms of what they're looking to do."

All of which could start a domino effect for the Bills or even the Giants, who select 12th.

"I would look at Atlanta as a threat," to trade with the Raiders at No. 5, McShay said, "if I need an offensive tackle."

As far as extra picks go, the Vikings have two third-rounders, at No. 72 and No. 96 overall, the Falcons have two fourths (No. 103 and No. 139, though the latter is a non-tradable compensatory pick) and the Giants have two in the fifth round (No. 152 and No. 174, a comp).
The most poignant Oakland Raiders plea leading up to the new league year last month?

No doubt it was Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece saying the weekend before free agency began that he wanted general manager Reggie McKenzie to make “Raider-ass moves” in signing players. As in, bold moves.

Reece
So, after signing 12 free agents, acquiring a new quarterback in Matt Schaub and jettisoning QB Terrelle Pryor, does Reece, the new voice of the Raiders, think McKenzie has followed through on his, ahem, advice?

“I do feel he did that,” Reece said Tuesday, the first day of voluntary offseason workouts for the Raiders.

“We weren’t looking for any saviors to come here and get in this locker room. We were looking for help. We were looking for help to bring this tradition, the winning attitude and a championship pedigree back to this organization and to the locker room and I think we did that.”

Consider: Defensive end Justin Tuck, offensive lineman Kevin Boothe, linebacker LaMarr Woodley, defensive lineman C.J. Wilson and receiver James Jones are toting a combined seven Super Bowl rings to Oakland from their time with the New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers.

Surely that has to rub off on the Raiders, no? That’s the plan.

“Like I said, it’s a certain stature and pedigree that you have, only by winning a championship,” Reece said. “Things that even leaders like myself don’t have yet. I haven’t been able to experience the playoffs or a championship, and when guys like Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley, when you bring guys like that in here, especially on the defensive side of the ball, it really helps. It brings a different aspect of leadership into a locker room and into a team.”

Reece served as a recruiter for the Raiders and said left tackle Donald Penn told him Tuesday he was “tired of me texting him two or three times a day” before he eventually signed.

“Obviously, we lost out on a few guys that we wanted to keep,” Reece said, likely referring to left tackle Jared Veldheer, defensive end Lamarr Houston and running back Rashad Jennings. “But I think other than that, we were fairly successful.”

As was the turnout for the first day of workouts, even if there was no official tally.

“Very close to 100 percent,” Reece said. “A couple of guys that aren’t here, I know why they’re not here and when they’re going to show up. There’s always things that come up, it’s life. It is 100 percent in my eyes. It means a lot to me, especially the veteran guys.”

And Reece’s thoughts on Pryor being traded a day earlier to the Seattle Seahawks?

“Nothing surprises me at this point in time in my career,” Reece said. “I’ve seen a lot happen in my seven years here in the organization. Nothing surprises me. As a team, we just wish him the best and thank him for what he did here and wish him the best.”
While the Oakland Raiders having interest in free agent receiver DeSean Jackson is no surprise, a pair of veteran players speaking out in support of Jackson have helped allay team fears about the polarizing playmaker’s potential negative effect in the team’s locker room, a league source said Sunday night.

Still, the Raiders are doing research on Jackson while playing a wait-and-see game as no visit has been scheduled yet. Jackson is, however, scheduled to visit the Washington Redskins on Tuesday.

Free safety Charles Woodson, who is entering his 17th season, on Friday told ESPN radio affiliate 95.7 The Game that he hoped general manager Reggie McKenzie brought Jackson to Oakland, after necessary background checks.

“But when you talk about bringing in a guy as talented as he is, and you have that opportunity, I think you take a shot at it,” Woodson said. “And I think where we are as a team, we need all the playmakers we can have, and adding that guy would definitely help take us to the next level.”

Jackson, who played at nearby Cal, is coming off a career-best season in which he caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. He would be the deep threat the Raiders want and need. Plus, the Raiders still have ample salary cap space.

But with Jackson being reportedly linked to gang activity in his native Los Angeles and, in the wake of the Aaron Hernandez situation in New England, the NFL in general and teams in particular are especially sensitive to players’ off-the-field relationships.

Raiders fullback Marcel Reece joined Woodson in pushing Jackson, the two-time Pro Bowler took to Twitter to defend Jackson.



The 5-feet-10, 178-pound Jackson, who is only 27, has been the subject of a social media push by Raiders fans using the hashtag #DJaxToOakland.

Raiders special teams coach Bobby April also has a history with Jackson, having coached in Philadelphia when Jackson was weaned off being the Eagles’ punt returner.

Woodson: Bring in Jackson

March, 29, 2014
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While Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie stayed mum regarding the possibility of adding the potentially combustible DeSean Jackson to his roster earlier this week -- after all, Jackson was still technically on the Philadelphia Eagles' roster during the NFL owners meetings -- a Raiders player spoke out.

Free safety Charles Woodson, who will be entering his 17th season, told ESPN radio affiliate 95.7 The Game on Friday that Jackson would be welcomed in Oakland after the Eagles cut him earlier in the day.

"Bring him in, I think he would look good in the silver and black," Woodson said. "Of course I know the business side of it, but I've watched this guy and what he is, is a dynamic football player. What they're talking [about] as far as off-the-field stuff, I have no clue about. The team would have to do their homework as far as that's concerned.

"But when you talk about bringing in a guy as talented as he is, and you have that opportunity, I think you take a shot at it. And I think where we are as a team, we need all the playmakers we can have, and adding that guy would definitely help take us to the next level."

Reports have linked Jackson to gangs in his Los Angeles-area home. He has also been seen as a diva in the locker room. But he is coming off a career year in which he caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns.

Jackson, who knows the Bay Area well having played collegiately at Cal, is still relatively young at 27, and, as Woodson noted, he'd be the play-making, game-changing weapon the Raiders could use to jumpstart the revamped offense under new quarterback Matt Schaub.

But at just 5-feet-10, 178 pounds, you have to wonder how many big hits he has left in him to absorb, let alone his baggage. McKenzie places a lot of value in chemistry and did admit he could take a chance on such a big-money, big-name player, though he was not talking specifically about Jackson.

"As long as he's a really good player that we think is really going to elevate our team," McKenzie told reporters at the meetings, according to the Bay Area News Group. "I mean, big money, name is not the major issue; it's, what else he can bring to the table?

"Production is going to be a lot, but there's many other characteristics that fall into that."

Such as reputation?

"That's what you've got to sit down and figure that out, you know?" McKenzie said. "Reputation is what you've done in the past."

As far as Woodson is concerned, though, signing Jackson would have been a no-brainer for the late Al Davis.

"There is no question in my mind that this is the type of player that Al would bring in," Woodson said. "You hear about the off-field stuff but I don't think Al would concern himself with that too much. I think Al would do his homework. But I think he would take a serious hard look, and if there was an opportunity I think he would bring that guy in.

"DeSean can stretch the field, and we know how much Al loved having guys that can stretch the field. So I don't think there is any question he would bring him in."
Fans and media types alike wondered why Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was suffering from what seemed like paralysis by analysis at the onset of free agency.

Why was McKenzie, with close to $65 million in salary-cap room, seemingly sitting out the first day or so of the frenzy, allowing the likes of division rival Denver to swoop in and sign players with aplomb, while his two best young players -- left tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive end Lamarr Houston -- walked?

[+] EnlargeJared Allen
Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesJared Allen signed a deal with Chicago that could be worth up to $32 million.
It was, the harsher critics suggested, as if McKenzie was fiddling while Silver and Blackdom burned.

But all the while there was a thought that no one wearing silver-and-black-colored glasses wanted to face: What if, no matter how financially enticing an offer, a prime free agent simply did not want to come to Oakland?

Heresy or reality?

The Raiders got a dose of that Wednesday when NFL Network reported that veteran defensive end Jared Allen passed on the largest offer he received -- a $9 million per year bid from the Raiders -- and chose instead to go to the Chicago Bears, which, ironically enough, is where Houston went.

Early in the offseason, I suggested the Raiders re-sign Houston and make a run at Allen to play on the right side, while flipping Houston back to the left, his more natural position. Seems like the two will team up after all ... just in the NFC North.

Allen chose the four-year, $32 million deal offered by the Bears, in part because he was reportedly turned off by the Raiders not having a quarterback in place at the time, though Matt Schaub was acquired shortly thereafter.

Also, McKenzie has been saying this week that Veldheer and Houston simply did not want to return to Oakland. McKenzie told the San Francisco Chronicle that he struggled with the notion.

Of course, many will say that McKenzie could have simply slapped a franchise tag on either player if he wanted them back that badly or, on the other end of the spectrum, that he low-balled the two.

None of that really matters now, though. Not when McKenzie accomplished what he set out to do by getting high-character, veteran locker room leaders who are still productive such as defensive ends Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith, linebacker LaMarr Woodley, receiver James Jones and left tackle Donald Penn.

Besides, they all did want to be in Oakland.

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