Saffold fiasco begs questions for McKenzie

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
12:20
AM ET
The Rodger Saffold fiasco paints two pictures of Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, neither one of which is very flattering.

Saffold
No. 1 – In over his head?

McKenzie targeted an injured Saffold and was ready to overpay for the offensive lineman’s services -– a five-year, $42.5 million deal, with $21 million guaranteed –- to the point of allowing left tackle Jared Veldheer, whow many saw as the Raiders’ best player, regardless of position, to walk in free agency. Veldheer signed with the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday.

No. 2 – Experiencing buyer’s remorse?

Perhaps McKenzie, a day after coming to terms with the, ahem, terms of the massive deal for Saffold, realized what a bad deal it was and found a way out by “failing” Saffold in his physical.

As ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported, there was a “strong disagreement” between the Raiders and St. Louis Rams, with whom Saffold spent his first four seasons. Basically, the Raiders had issues with Saffold’s shoulder and failed him in his physical; the Rams had no issues, and Saffold went back to St. Louis on a new five-year deal.

So sure, since Saffold never signed his contract, the Raiders aren’t out that money or cap space and have dollars to spend. But McKenzie is back to square one when it comes to Oakland’s left tackle situation, even if Saffold had been earmarked for right guard with left tackle money.

Menelik Watson endured an injury-ravaged rookie season at right tackle (he was penciled in to start the year on the left side after Veldheer went down with a triceps injury) and Khalif Barnes is probably more of a “flex” situational player now on the line.

On the free-agent market, Charles Brown is still out there, as is Anthony Collins and Michael Oher, though Oher is primarily a right tackle now. Plus, the Raiders do have the No. 5 overall pick in May’s draft and could perhaps now target Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson. But that takes away from McKenzie’s stated goal to get a “playmaker” with his first pick.

Then again, he also said then he wanted to retain Veldheer, defensive end Lamarr Houston and running back Rashad Jennings and expected oft-injured running back Darren McFadden to test free agency.

Of course, there are two sides to every story, and McKenzie has yet to speak publicly. Still, questions about the team’s offseason plan and overall direction are beginning to bubble up within the Raiders’ compound.

An NFL Network report had Saffold needing surgery that would have still had him ready for the season. But Raiders owner Mark Davis, perhaps already gun-shy with last season’s acquisitions of injured players D.J. Hayden and Matt Flynn, quashed the deal.

Davis did not immediately respond to a text.

Paul Gutierrez

ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter

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