- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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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?
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.