- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- In his 45-minute end-of-the-season sitdown with six reporters who regularly cover the team on Thursday, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie acknowledged that his team does not have a biggest need.
“We have biggest needs,” McKenzie said, “with an 'S.'"
As in the Raiders need a franchise quarterback, a playmaking receiver, a solid piece to the offensive line, and a prototypical edge pass-rusher, to name a few.
Among the league’s pending free agents: quarterback Josh Freeman, receivers Eric Decker and Golden Tate, offensive tackles Michael Oher and Branden Albert, center Alex Mack and defensive ends Greg Hardy, Justin Tuck, and Jared Allen.
The Raiders will also have more than $60 million in cap space.
The trick, then, is convincing a top-tier free agent to come to Oakland and play for a team that is not only coming off consecutive 4-12 seasons in which it lost eight of its final nine games in both years under coach Dennis Allen, but has not been to the playoffs or had a winning record since 2002.
“It’s the opportunity to play and be a part of something,” McKenzie said of his sales pitch. “We’re going to turn this thing around. We’re going to try and sell the Raiders. That’s the No. 1 thing. It’s not trying to attract guys by saying an end result like 'we’re going to the Super Bowl.'
“We’re going to get this thing turned around and we’re going to win. If you want to be a part of this, here’s what we’ve got, and here’s how we want to play you. Here’s what we present offensively and defensively, and here’s where you fit in. If the kid wants to come, we’ll get more into detail about how he can help that process. When you deal with football players, they just want an opportunity to showcase what they have.”
McKenzie does not believe it will be that tough a task, even as he says he will not overspend. He said as much last year, when he eyed this coming offseason by saying he’d have money to spend, but that did not mean he would go shopping at Macy’s.
“We want to accumulate as many good players as possible,” he said. “The philosophy is not to dump every dollar and cent into one or two players; that’s not what I want. We’re not at that point with our team that we’re able to do that, because we have more than one or two needs. We’re going to do things that make sense for the big picture, which is the overall overhaul of the roster.
“Just because I have $5 in my pocket, that doesn’t mean I have to spend all of it ... on junk.”
Still, McKenzie’s overall philosophy is one of building through the draft, with an eye on free agency to serve as a bridge after two years in salary-cap hell.
“(It’s) not necessarily a weight being lifted,” he said, “but it’s an excitement about what’s to come, that we’re ready to move forward with this Raider team.”
4dEric D. Williams
7dEric D. Williams