Oakland Raiders: 2014 NFL free agency

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- So what, exactly, is the Oakland Raiders' reputation across the NFL, according to three of the teams’ more respected free-agent veteran signees?

“Man, the impression was they had a lot of talented players but they couldn’t finish,” receiver James Jones said Tuesday, the first day of the Raiders’ voluntary offseason workout program. Jones spent the first seven years of his NFL career with the Green Bay Packers.

Tuck
Jones
Jones
“Obviously, the record speaks for itself. I wasn’t part of the team back then but as we talked today, 4-12 is not good enough. When we played the Raiders in the past, we’re kind of putting that ‘win’ on the board already. Now, everybody’s got to look at their self in the mirror and we’ve got to understand that we really don’t get no respect, and you’re not going to get no respect when you’re 4-12, so we’ve got to go out there and take it this year. And I believe we’ve got the right guys to do it.”

The Raiders have been among the more busy teams since the new league year began on March 11, having signed 12 free agents and acquiring a new quarterback in Matt Schaub in a trade with the Houston Texans.

Granted, most of the new guys are on the backside of their careers, but to a man they believe they still have a lot in the tank, while acknowledging they have a lot to prove.

“You hear, 'This is a great team, in 2009,'" offered running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who had been with the Jacksonville Jaguars since 2006. "Whatever."

There are more chips on these guys’ shoulders, though, than questions ... or whatevers.

"Being a fan of the Raiders," added Jones-Drew, who grew up in the East Bay and still lives in Oakland, "I was always envious of Darren (McFadden) because he got to wear that (silver and black) jersey and he played well, when healthy.

"We brought the right guys in."

Meaning drama-free vets with championship pedigrees, so to speak. And a knack for knowing how to win, as defensive end Justin Tuck's two Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants attest.

And yes, Tuck thought the same as Jones when it came to the Raiders, who have not had a winning season since 2002 and are coming off consecutive 4-12 seasons.

"I would say 'talented,' but hadn’t played together as far as knowing how to win," Tuck said of the recent Raiders. "Beating themselves a little bit. Just like the game up (in New Jersey) last year. They had an opportunity to win, but they couldn’t close it out. That’s the M.O., I guess."

That’s what the veterans were brought to Oakland to do -- reverse the course and teach the team how to win.

“That’s our mentality,” said Tuck, who envisions the Raiders making like last season’s Kansas City Chiefs, who were 11-5 a year after going 2-14.

“A lot of people always say you go to Oakland for your career to die. I’m not looking at it like that. I’m looking at it like this is an opportunity to revive a storied franchise in a city with a great fan base behind this football team. The energy and excitement around this football team should be good. I’m excited about it.”

Raiders free-agency tracker

April, 4, 2014
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There's no doubt the Oakland Raiders have been one of the busiest teams in free agency. Besides signing 11 free agents off other teams -- only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13) and New York Giants (13) have signed more through Monday, and the Chicago Bears had also signed 11 -- the Raiders also re-signed four of their own.

Plus, the Raiders acquired quarterback Matt Schaub from the Houston Texans for a sixth-round draft pick.

Oakland's two most recent moves addressed specific needs identified by coach Dennis Allen at the NFL owners meetings: They added another cornerback in Carlos Rogers and depth on the defensive line in C.J. Wilson and Pat Sims.

Are the Raiders done? Stay tuned. Here is the Raiders' updated free-agency tracker:

Raiders free agents

LT Jared Veldheer: Signed a five-year, $37.5 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals on March 11.

DE Lamarr Houston: Signed a five-year, $35 million deal with the Chicago Bears on March 11.

RB Rashad Jennings: Signed a four-year, $14 million deal with the New York Giants on March 12.

CB Tracy Porter: Signed a two-year, $6 million deal with Washington on March 13.

RB Darren McFadden: Signed a one-year, $4 million deal to return to the Raiders, with $100,000 guaranteed and $2.25 million in incentives on March 15.

FS Charles Woodson: Signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract to return to Raiders on March 21.

DT Vance Walker: Signed a three-year contract with Kansas City Chiefs worth a maximum of $13.75 million, guaranteed at least $3.75 million on March 14.

DT Pat Sims: Signed a one-year, $1.45 million contract to return to Raiders on March 28.

CB Mike Jenkins: Signed a one-year contract worth up to $2 million with Tampa Bay Buccaneers on March 20.

DT Daniel Muir

CB Phillip Adams: Reportedly agreed to one-year contract with Seattle Seahawks on March 27.

S Usama Young: Signed a two-year, $2.5 million contract to return to Raiders on March 19.

OT Tony Pashos

WR Jacoby Ford: Signed a one-year, $750,000 contract with the New York Jets on April 1.

DE Jason Hunter

C/G Andre Gurode

TE Jeron Mastrud

Who else is gone?

RG Mike Brisiel: Cut by Oakland on April 1, saving the Raiders $1.38 million in salary-cap space, though he'll still carry a cap number of $3.93 million in dead money.
Who’s new?

OL Rodger Saffold (Signed with St. Louis Rams): Agreed to a five-year, $42.5 million deal with $21 million guaranteed with Raiders on March 11. The deal voided with Oakland's concerns over the health of Saffold's shoulder the next day. He re-signed with Rams immediately.

OL Austin Howard (New York Jets): Signed a five-year, $30 million deal with $15 million in guarantees with Raiders on March 12.

DE Justin Tuck (New York Giants): Signed a two-year, $11 million deal with Raiders on March 13.

LB/DE LaMarr Woodley (Pittsburgh Steelers): Signed a two-year contract worth up to $12 million with Raiders on March 13.

CB Tarell Brown (San Francisco 49ers): Signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with Raiders on March 14.

DL Antonio Smith (Houston Texans): Signed a two-year, $9 million deal with Raiders on March 14.

WR James Jones (Green Bay Packers): Signed a three-year, $11.3 million deal with Raiders on March 17.

OL Kevin Boothe (New York Giants): Signed a two-year, $2.625 million contract with Raiders on March 17.

LT Donald Penn (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Signed a two-year, $9.6 million deal with $4.2 million guaranteed with Raiders on March 19.

QB Matt Schaub (Houston Texans): Acquired in a trade for a sixth-round selection in 2014 NFL draft on March 21.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars): Signed a three-year, $7.5 million deal with the Raiders on March 28.

DL C.J. Wilson (Green Bay Packers): Signed a one-year, $795,000 contract with Raiders on March 28.

CB Carlos Rogers (San Francisco 49ers): Signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with Raiders on March 31.

Who's visited or will be visiting reportedly?

DT Jason Hatcher (Dallas Cowboys): Signed a four-year, $27.5 million contract with Washington on March 13.

DE Henry Melton (Chicago Bears): Signed a four-year, $29 million with Dallas Cowboys on March 19.

DB Terrell Thomas (New York Giants)

RB Andre Brown (New York Giants)

LB Dane Fletcher (New England Patriots): Signed a one-year, $2 million contract with Tampa Bay Buccaneers on March 16.

LB Rob Jackson (Washington)

-- Contract figures culled from numerous reports.

The Oakland Raiders secondary should have a certain San Francisco 49ers feel to it this season as the Raiders signed their second cornerback from across the bay on Monday.

Carlos Rogers will join Tarell Brown, who signed on March 14. As it stands now, Rogers should be a starting corner opposite Brown and move inside in nickel packages, with last year's top draft pick, D.J. Hayden, coming in for Rogers.

"I don't want to say you can plug anybody outside, but being an outside corner is easier to learn," Rogers said in a conference call. "Nickel, you're dealing with the linebackers, you're dealing with the D-line, you're dealing with your corners and your safeties, so it's going to be a big part of what I need to do. I need to learn all the terminology and get the nickel spot down.

"I'm going to have a big opportunity to compete on the outside for a starting spot as a corner. For me, personally, my biggest role is going to be making sure I've got all the nickel stuff down."

[+] EnlargeRogers
Bob Stanton/USA TODAY SportsCarlos Rogers will join Tarell Brown in Oakland's secondary.
Rogers, who turns 33 on July 2, was originally a first-round draft pick, No. 9 overall, of Washington in 2005 and came to San Francisco in 2011. In three seasons with the 49ers, he had nine interceptions and was a Pro Bowler.

He said he is excited to be reunited with Brown after being cut by the 49ers.

"It's going to be fun," he said. "We're two older guys that can bring experience, can bring leadership, can bring a lot of stuff to the table. I've played in a lot of different defenses and it's not hard to come over here and learn this defense and this terminology. We were a big part of the puzzle that turned San Francisco's defense around, so hopefully we can translate that over here and be even better.

"My focus is I want to continue to win and I want to continue to be a big part of helping to turn this organization around, like I did in San Francisco and continue to win and try to get to that Super Bowl and win it. I don't have any hatred for San Francisco. I had three great years of my career there."

Rogers is the 11th different free agent to sign with the Raiders since the new league year began on March 11. Oakland has also re-signed four of its own free agents and acquired quarterback Matt Schaub in a trade for a sixth-round draft pick.

Entering Monday, the Raiders had little more than $13 million in salary cap space, according to ESPN Stats & Information data.

"The Raiders have been one of the teams that have been more active in the offseason, trying to turn things around," Rogers said. "I see where this team is going and it wasn't hard to come here and finalize the deal. Especially playing with Tarell. And I have been good friends with Charles Woodson since I've been in college. It was easier to come here and play with them. Plus, I just have to move myself from one place to another, right across the bay."

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."

Raiders add DL C.J. Wilson

March, 28, 2014
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The Oakland Raiders have addressed the need for depth on the defensive line by signing free agent C.J. Wilson, the team announced Friday afternoon.

The 6-foot-3, 306-pound Wilson, who turns 27 on Sunday, was a seventh-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2010 out of East Carolina. In four seasons, he has played in 50 games, starting 11, and has 3 sacks.

"It feels great to be a Raider," Wilson said in a team-issued release. "I’m excited to help the team win and ready to come make some noise."

He was limited to eight games last season -- he missed three games with an ankle injury but was a healthy scratch the other times -- after having a breakthrough 2012, in which he appeared in 11 games, seven starts, and had 37 tackles (18 solo), with 2 sacks and a pass defensed.

Wilson also stepped up as a rookie during the Packers' four-game playoff run to the Super Bowl XLV title.

With the Raiders, Wilson is expected to be versatile enough to play both end and inside, though primarily as a run-stuffer on first and second downs.

The biggest question regarding the Oakland Raiders signing free-agent running back Maurice Jones-Drew to a three-year contract on Friday is this: How exactly do they plan to use him in their retooled offense? As the bellcow? In tandem? As insurance?

Jones-Drew said he was told by the Raiders he was coming in to compete.

"We have different running abilities," he said in a conference call Friday. "But the competition is what's going to make us better. We'll push each other."

He joins a crowded if somewhat unsettled backfield.

Since being the No. 4 overall draft pick in 2008, Darren McFadden has been the Raiders' starter ... when healthy. And Oakland re-signed him to an incentive-laden deal to do just that in 2014, even though he has missed 19 of the Raiders' previous 41 games and has never played more than 13 games in a season.

The Raiders are also high on Latavius Murray, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury after being drafted in the sixth round. Plus, they signed Canadian Football League Grey Cup MVP Kory Sheets, and the Raiders still have Jeremy Stewart on the roster.

Or, as Murray tweeted:

Jones-Drew, a diminutive three-time Pro Bowler who has a lot of mileage on his powerful legs, has had health issues himself of late. It just so happens that in the past two seasons, those injuries occurred in Oakland.

In 2012, after holding out in the preseason, the 5-foot-8, 205-pound Jones-Drew broke his left foot on the Jaguars' second play from scrimmage against the Raiders in Week 7 and did not play another down all season. He underwent what he termed "major" surgery that offseason.

Last season, Jones-Drew sprained his left ankle on a touchdown-saving flying tackle by Charles Woodson in the first quarter of the Week 2 game.

"It was a hell of a tackle," Jones-Drew said, "there's nothing I can say."

Jones-Drew, 29, missed the rest of that game but played the rest of the season, rushing for 803 yards while averaging a career-low 3.4 yards per carry. His previous low was his 4.2 in 2008.

"I feel like I have a ton left in the tank," he said, and maybe splitting time with McFadden would keep both off the injury report. Or perhaps it limits their efficiency and productivity in smaller-than-usual roles.

Whatever the case may be, Jones-Drew grew up in the East Bay a fan of the Raiders, prepped at high school powerhouse De La Salle and has lived in the Bay Area every offseason since Jacksonville selected him in the second round of the 2006 draft out of UCLA. Playing home games in front of his grandmother now, he said, would be a bonus.

Jones-Drew said the other teams that reached out to him wanted him to join them in a mentor role, or as a backup.

"But the Raiders," he said, "gave me an opportunity to compete.

"It just feels like home."
Three-time Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew is scheduled to make a free-agent visit with the Oakland Raiders on Friday, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported.

Jones-Drew
Some might see it as a curious development, in that the Raiders’ current biggest needs are on the interior of the defensive line and at cornerback.

But the bowling ball-like Jones-Drew, who grew up near Oakland and went to high school at powerhouse De La Salle, would also bring explosiveness to the running game ... so long as he stays healthy.

He missed 10 games in 2012 and one last season, after a flying tackle by the Raiders’ Charles Woodson, and is coming off a career-low 3.4 yards per carry average with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He rushed for 803 yards and five touchdowns in 2013.

Still, the Raiders do have questions at running back as they re-signed the oft-injured -- but just as tantalizing and teasing -- Darren McFadden, who has averaged 3.3 yards per carry the past two seasons. They are hoping for big things from Latavius Murray, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury after being a sixth-round draft pick. Oakland also signed Kory Sheets, the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup MVP.

Jones-Drew, 29, was a first-team All-Pro in 2011 after leading the league with 1,606 yards rushing. He played for current Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson when Olson was the Jaguars’ assistant head coach/QB coach in 2012.
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.
Richie Incognito as a member of the Oakland Raiders is so, well, last regime. Or have you not noticed the trend and type of player general manager Reggie McKenzie has been signing thus far this offseason?

Incognito
They are guys not only with championship pedigrees but also locker room leaders. Guys like Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley and James Jones, and yes, the re-signed Charles Woodson.

Incognito exhibits none of those traits.

Sure, the left guard is a mauler on the offensive line who would have fit in nicely on the old-school Raiders’ island of misfit toys (imagine him and Lyle Alzado going at it in practice), but McKenzie is veering away from those types of players.

Asked at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando on Monday if he had seen the NFL.com report in which Incognito said he was “100 percent into” the prospect of playing for the Raiders, McKenzie smiled.

“I’ve heard about it,” McKenzie said, per the Bay Area News Group.

Asked what he thought about it, McKenzie smiled and said nothing.

Asked if he was interested in Incognito, McKenzie again smiled and was mute.

From a pure playing standpoint, Incognito does have relationships with Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson and assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tony Sparano.

“I’m a loyal guy,” Incognito told NFL.com, “and I’d love to play for them again. And, of course, the Raiders have that aura.”

But again, that aura is from a different generation. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, it just is.

Because the notion of Incognito -- who may still face league discipline for his role in the bullying episode in Miami involving Jonathan Martin -- joining the Raiders gave pause to even the progeny of Al Davis.

“I’d have to think about that,” Mark Davis told reporters.

He’d probably be wise to check in with recently signed defensive end Antonio Smith, who has a longstanding feud with Incognito going back to their college days in the Big 12, a bad blood grudge that’s included kicks to the head, helmets being ripped off and more-than-salty threats.

Yeah, Incognito would be a great fit for the old Raiders ... just not McKenzie’s Raiders, who have already added offensive linemen Donald Penn, Kevin Boothe and Austin Howard, to go along with center Stefen Wisniewski, the re-signed Khalif Barnes, second-year tackle Menelik Watson, veteran right guard Mike Brisiel, Matt McCants, Lamar Mady and McKenzie's first-ever draft pick, Tony Bergstrom.

As one anonymous Raiders player told me last season when I asked which player, Incognito or Martin, he would rather have as a teammate, “Neither,” was the reply.
Reggie McKenzieAP Photo/Johnny VyOakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie is doing what he can to bring in veteran leaders.
What started out as nothing short of embarrassing -- the Rodger Saffold debacle -- has leveled out quite nicely for the Oakland Raiders and third-year general manager Reggie McKenzie, thank you very much.

No, McKenzie has not made what Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece called for the weekend before free agency began, when he told me he wanted McKenzie to eschew "safe" signings in favor of "smart, calculated, fearless, Raider-ass moves."

As in bold, outside-the-box transactions that would make opponents once again quake in their cleats at the thought of the Silver and Black. But anyone who thought McKenzie was going to make a splash, like some reckless spendthrift at worst or high-stakes poker player at best, with the near $65 million in salary-cap space was simply not paying attention.

Besides his words -- he said last year he was not necessarily going shopping at Macy’s -- his actions have had a decided "Moneyball" feel to them, almost as if the bargain-hunting ways for undervalued vets of the Raiders' Coliseum co-tenants, Major League Baseball's Athletics, have been transferred to McKenzie from Billy Beane by some sort of East Bay osmosis.

For the Oakland faithful, then, the Raiders losing free agents Jared Veldheer, Lamarr Houston and Rashad Jennings was akin to the A’s saying adios to the likes of Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada and Barry Zito. Kind of.

And with that as your backdrop, and in not only signing eight veteran free agents, plus re-signing three of their own in safeties Charles Woodson and Usama Young and running back Darren McFadden, and acquiring quarterback Matt Schaub in a trade for a sixth-round draft pick before he restructured his contract to make it more cap-friendly this season, McKenzie is following his blueprint to a T.

Now, whether that translates to something better than a third straight 4-12 record remains to be seen. But McKenzie is doing what he set out to do, Saffold be damned.

"What we're trying to do is add some veteran leadership, guys who have some production, and just make sure we upgrade this team," McKenzie told the Bay Area News Group last week. "And that's the bottom line, trying to upgrade the team through production and the leadership."

Defensive end Justin Tuck comes with two Super Bowl rings and turns 31 on March 29. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley has a ring in two trips to the Super Bowl and turns 30 in November. Receiver James Jones beat Woodley in the Super Bowl and he turns 30 on March 31.

Offensive linemen Kevin Boothe, originally a Raiders draft pick who won two rings with the New York Giants, and Donald Penn, a Pro Bowl left tackle, both turn 31 before the season opens.

[+] EnlargeJustin Tuck sacks Kirk Cousins
AP Photo/Julio CortezThe Raiders hope Justin Tuck still has something left in the tank.
Defensive end Antonio Smith, who has 27 sacks the past five seasons and has gone to a Pro Bowl, turns 33 in October, while cornerback Tarell Brown, who has started 42 of his past 45 games, is 29 and right tackle Austin Howard, seen as a rising star on the line with only two sacks allowed last season, is the relative babe at 27.

Even Schaub -- a two-time Pro Bowler who was due to make $11 million this season before the restructure lowered his base salary for 2014 but still enables him to make between $15 and $20 million the next two years, per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter -- turns 33 in June.

"I definitely can see Matt Schaub being the quarterback of the Oakland Raiders for more than just a year or two," coach Dennis Allen said. "You look at Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, all these guys are beginning to get up there in age, so I think that [Schaub] can play for a while."

Yes, things have quieted down a bit around the Raiders' compound since that initial Saffold fiasco angered more than a few at 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway and had more wondering what, exactly, McKenzie was doing in the initial hours of free agency. He had lost the Raiders' two best free agents in Veldheer and Houston and agreed to a massive five-year, $42.5 million deal, with $21 million guaranteed, with an injury-prone right guard in Saffold before the Raiders medical staff flunked him with a bad shoulder and the deal was off.

With McKenzie already having a bad run with injured players in drafting D.J. Hayden last year as well as acquiring a sore-armed quarterback in Matt Flynn, throwing so much cash at an offensive lineman who may have required surgery and missed the offseason programs was too much to stomach.

And while one report had owner Mark Davis vetoing the Saffold deal amid rumors of "buyer's remorse," a Raiders source told ESPN.com that Davis merely let his feelings be known that he was not entirely on board with signing another injured player, but the personnel staff could do whatever it, ahem, liked.

Semantics? No doubt. But this much is true: McKenzie has rebounded after a rough start to free agency two weeks ago and stayed his course as he and Allen prepare for what could be a make-or-break season for both.

"The good news is that we've had some experience in that area," Allen said of roster turnover. "When you look at the guys that we're bringing in here, they're guys that have been a part of championship teams and they understand what it takes to win and win at a high level in this league. They're guys that can help us bring along some of these young players that we feel like have a chance to develop into good football players for us.

"It's a challenge, but that's the fun part."

It was 1960s activist Jack Weinberg who made popular the slogan, "Don't trust anyone over 30." McKenzie, though, is seemingly putting all of the Raiders' trust there ... and in guys about to turn 30. It's part of his plan, for better or worse.

Raiders free agency tracker

March, 22, 2014
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It has been a busy week for the Oakland Raiders, culminating with the organization acquiring that sought after veteran quarterback in two-time Pro Bowler Matt Schaub on Friday. The Raiders also re-signed veteran free safety Charles Woodson and picked up a left tackle in Donald Penn as well as a veteran receiver in James Jones.

Here is the Raiders’ updated free agency tracker:

Raiders free agents

LT Jared Veldheer – signed a five-year, $37.5 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals on March 11.

DE Lamarr Houston – signed a five-year, $35 million deal with the Chicago Bears on March 11.

RB Rashad Jennings – signed a four-year, $14 million deal with the New York Giants on March 12.

CB Tracy Porter – signed with Washington on March 13.

RB Darren McFadden – signed a one-year, $4 million deal to return to the Raiders, with $100,000 guaranteed and $2.25 million in incentives on March 15.

FS Charles Woodson – signed a one-year contract to return to Raiders on March 21.

DT Vance Walkersigned three-year contract with Kansas City Chiefs worth max of $13.75 million, guaranteed at least $3.75 million on March 14.

DT Pat Sims – linked to Tennessee Titans.

CB Mike Jenkins – signed one-year contract worth up to $2 million with Tampa Bay Buccaneers on March 20.

DT Daniel Muir

CB Phillip Adams

S Usama Youngsigned a two-year contract to return to Raiders on March 19.

OT Tony Pashos

WR Jacoby Fordlinked to New York Jets.

DE Jason Hunter

C/G Andre Gurode

TE Jeron Mastrud

 

Who’s new?

OT Rodger Saffold (St. Louis Rams) – agreed to five-year, $42,5 million deal, with $21 million guaranteed, with Raiders on March 11. Deal voided with Oakland’s concerns over health of Saffold’s shoulder the next day, he re-signed with Rams immediately.

RT Austin Howard (New York Jets) – signed five-year, $30 million deal, with $15 million in guarantees, with Raiders on March 12.

DE Justin Tuck (New York Giants) – signed two-year, $11 million deal with Raiders on March 13.

LB LaMarr Woodley (Pittsburgh Steelers) – signed two-year contract worth up to $12 million with Raiders on March 13.

CB Tarell Brown (San Francisco 49ers) – signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with Raiders on March 14.

DE Antonio Smith (Houston Texans) –signed a two-year, $9 million deal with Raiders on March 14.

WR James Jones (Green Bay Packers) – signed a three-year, $11.3 million deal with Raiders on March 17.

OL Kevin Boothe (New York Giants) – signed a two-year contract with Raiders on March 17.

LT Donald Penn (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – signed a two-year, $9.6 million deal, with $4.2 million guaranteed, with Raiders on March 19.

QB Matt Schaub (Houston Texans) – acquired in a trade for a sixth-round selection in 2014 NFL draft on March 21.



Who has visited or will be visiting…reportedly?

DT Jason Hatcher (Dallas Cowboys) – signed a four-year, $27.5 million contract with Washington.

DE Henry Melton (Chicago Bears) – signed with Dallas Cowboys.

DB Terrell Thomas (New York Giants)

RB Andre Brown (New York Giants)

LB Dane Fletcher (New England Patriots) – signed a one-year, $2 million contract with Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

LB Rob Jackson (Washington)
OK, this is what I don’t want to hear: Matt Schaub is going to be the next Rich Gannon.

Yeah, yeah, we know the tale: Older guy comes to Oakland with his career on life support. He revitalizes it, along with the entire franchise, goes on to win an MVP and takes Raider Nation to the Super Bowl. It’s an awesome story, and that’s why it doesn’t happen very often.

Vick
Vick
Schaub
Schaub
Instead, what Schaub is likely to become is the next Jason Campbell, Carson Palmer or Matt Flynn. Another so-so, more-problems-than-qualities quarterback who the Raiders traded for in a desperate attempt to find that Gannon magic.

When is this going to end?

Hey Oakland, another Gannon is not walking through those doors. Stop thinking he will in the form of another beat-down old dude.

Schaub was a shell of himself last season in Houston. Why would Oakland, which is trying to build an offense and is far from a ready product, think it can fix him at the age of 32?

If the Raiders were fixated on continuing to get older all over the field -- a weird approach with a team with a ton of salary-cap room that hasn’t had a winning record since George W. Bush’s first administration -- I guess an argument could be made for Michael Vick. He’d be completely free (I know Schaub cost just a late-round pick, but the Raiders need the chance to develop every kid they can get their hands on) and Vick has some ability to make plays happen.

Schaub is a less-talented Palmer. He will occasionally tease, but is more likely to throw a pick-six than a touchdown.

I really hope the Raiders don’t think this is the guy who is going to lead them back to the playoffs. All he is going to do it get cut in a couple of years, and then the Raiders will have to start over. Again.

I’d give the the Raiders props if they took a chance on Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles. The only way this woebegone franchise is going to be relevant again is if it finds the right young quarterback. Yes, maybe the Raiders will draft one of those youngsters and Schaub will be the backup. But I’m not sure this trade was made for Schaub to be the backup.

Oh, and this deal, also tells you what the Raiders think of Terrelle Pryor. Yep, he’s not the answer. Still, the ultimate question in Oakland after this trade: Who is the answer at quarterback?

It wasn’t solved Friday morning. Matt Schaub is not Rich Gannon.

Free-agency review: Raiders

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
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Brown
Most significant signing: Cornerback Tarell Brown. Oakland signed him away from crosstown rival San Francisco. Brown received a one-year, $3.5 million deal. He is a solid player, and I think he can be the Raiders' best veteran cornerback in a few years. If D.J. Hayden can improve and stay healthy in his second season, the Raiders have a solid pair of cornerbacks. I like this move over some of the other bigger defensive players the Raiders signed, such as Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith, because of value and impact at the position. I also like the pickup of former Green Bay receiver James Jones on Monday evening. He is a solid player who should become the Raiders' most reliable receiver. This is exactly the type of signing a team with a surplus of cap room should execute.

Most significant loss: Left tackle Jared Veldheer. Defensive end Lamarr Houston is a close second. Veldheer gets the nod as the worst whiff because the Raiders have not replaced him (more about that later). The Raiders had the most salary-cap room in the NFL, and it was telling they couldn't keep these two good, young players. Successful teams keep their own players. For the Raiders to create holes and, in Houston's case, get older in the process is not efficient free-agency management.

Biggest surprise: The event surrounding tackle Rodger Saffold. This has been the league's strangest story of free agency. The Raiders tried to replace Veldheer with Saffold. After that deal was widely panned because Veldheer is considered a better player than Saffold, the Raiders voided the deal because Saffold failed his physical. The Rams, Saffold's previous team, were well aware of his physical condition and quickly signed Saffold. Now the Raiders, despite all their cap room, have a gaping hole at a premium position.

What's next? The Raiders reportedly have $51 million in cap room (still the most in the NFL). They still have to build their roster, so there is plenty of work to do. It is bargain time in free agency, so the Raiders should have the ability to pick and choose whom they want to sign. In addition to finding Veldheer's replacement, the Raiders are also looking at quarterbacks. Possibilities include a trade for Houston's Matt Schaub, Mark Sanchez and perhaps Michael Vick.
Mike Mitchell, LaMarr WoodleyGetty ImagesIn safety Mike Mitchell and linebacker LaMarr Woodley the Steelers and Raiders hope to find free-agent steals.
LaMarr Woodley is now a Raider as he signed with Oakland last week following his release from the Steelers. The Steelers, meanwhile, made an uncharacteristic signing on the first day of free agency, bringing in Mike Mitchell to take over for Ryan Clark at free safety. Mitchell played for the Panthers in 2013 but spent his first four seasons with the Raiders.

ESPN.com Steelers writer Scott Brown and ESPN.com Raiders writer Paul Gutierrez take a closer look at Woodley and Mitchell and what their signings mean for their respective teams.

Paul Gutierrez: The Raiders had many needs entering the offseason, perhaps none greater than pass rush. They seemed to address that by signing Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley, but I’m sure Raiders fans are wondering just how much Woodley, who turns 30 in November, has left in the tank?

Scott Brown: The Raiders should be getting a player who will be extremely motivated following his release by the Steelers -- and by how his career played out after they had made Woodley the highest-paid defensive player in franchise history. It proved to be a rather stunning fall from grace for Woodley, and ultimately the Steelers picked Jason Worilds, whom they had been widely criticized for drafting in the second round in 2010, over Woodley.

Woodley’s inability to stay on the field led to the Steelers making that choice, and if he can stay healthy he could turn out to be a real bargain for the Raiders. Woodley played well until a calf injury sidelined him in the second half of the last season and ultimately shut him down. What has the reaction been to the Woodley signing, and do you think the Raiders view it as a low-risk, high-reward proposition?

Gutierrez: The reaction has been one of relief from Raiders fans, especially since Tuck had signed earlier in the wake of the Rodger Saffold debacle. Now, I’m not saying it “saved” the Raiders’ free agent-signing season, but it did wash away some of the bad taste because the Raiders had a huge need at pass rush. In Woodley (57 career sacks) and Tuck (60.5 career sacks) they addressed it even if both guys will be on the wrong side of 30 come midseason. Still, Woodley and Tuck, bring a championship mentality (two Super Bowl appearances) to a franchise that has not had a winning record since 2002. And yeah, the money is right (“only” up to $12 million) as is the length of the deal (two years).

Still, there are questions about how his skill set plays into the Raiders’ base 4-3 defense since Woodley was the left outside linebacker in the Steelers’ 3-4 scheme. He says he’ll play with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end in a 4-3. Do you see that as a realistic possibility, or is that too much to ask of him at this stage of his career?

Brown: Woodley should be fine moving to defensive end as that is what he played in college when he tormented quarterbacks for Michigan. The move might help him regain some of his pass-rushing mojo as Woodley won’t drop into coverage nearly as often as he did with the Steelers. I like the signing for the Raiders, especially if Woodley prepares and plays as if a fire has been lit under him. Did complacency set in after he signed the six-year, $61.5 million in 2011? It sure seems that way and maybe getting released is what Woodley needed to get his career back on track.

The Steelers normally stay on the sidelines during the first wave of free agency but they made a significant signing when they lured Mike Mitchell away from Carolina with a five-year, $25 million contract. Mitchell spent his first four seasons in Oakland and I’m curious about your impressions of him. Did he simply need a change of scenery or did things click for him last season because he played on a better team?

Gutierrez: Yeah, it’s been a couple of years since I covered Mitchell on a day-to-day basis but he definitely left an impression as one of the best interviews in the Raiders locker room, win, lose or draw. The spotlight was on him from the day Al Davis used a second-round pick on a little-known player from Ohio University. Davis had visions of another undersized, hard-hitting safety from the Buckeye State in Jack Tatum but that was a tough bar to reach. Still, he had some flashes… especially in covering San Diego tight end Antonio Gates a few years back. A change of scenery, and being with a team that had a better pass rush, definitely helped him out in Carolina. Plus, he was able to freelance more with the Panthers as a free safety, rather than on the strong side. And with his outspoken manner, gritty disposition and, yes, rep as a hard hitter, he seems to fit the mold of Raiders and Steelers' DBs of yore, even if he’s not Tatum or even Donnie Shell.

Speaking of old school, Raiders fans still refer to “IT” as the Immaculate DE-ception… so when, if ever, is Frenchy Fuqua going to tell the entire story?

Brown: I just read a tremendous book on the 1970s Steelers, “Their Life’s Work,” and it sounds like he is taking that story to his grave. I’m sure Steelers’ fans would counter that the Immaculate RE-ception is history and in the books no matter how it went down. It certainly is one of the more intriguing chapters of that storied rivalry and remains so after all of these years. What are the chances that the Raiders and Steelers turn back the clock at some point and resume meeting regularly in the playoffs as they did in the 1970s?

Gutierrez: Well, that would mean the Raiders have to get BACK to the playoffs, a place they have not visited since 2002. Realistically, I can’t see it happening in the next year or two, but in the NFL, things do change quickly. Not sure the rivalry can ever get back to the days of the ’70s, though, when the Steelers and Raiders met in three straight AFC title games, which I wrote about in January.

Raiders free agency tracker

March, 16, 2014
Mar 16
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According to his agent, safety Usama Young will re-sign with the Oakland Raiders on a two-year deal and Young himself Tweeted out the news on Saturday -- also, the Raiders will reportedly play host to former New England Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher on Sunday.

Here’s the Raiders’ updated free agency tracker:

Raiders free agents

LT Jared Veldheer -- signed a five-year, $37.5-million deal with the Arizona Cardinals.

DE Lamarr Houston -- signed a five-year, $35-million deal with the Chicago Bears.

RB Rashad Jennings -- signed a four-year, $14-million deal with the New York Giants.

CB Tracy Porter -- signed with Washington.

RB Darren McFadden -- signed a one-year, $4-million deal to return to the Raiders, with $100,000 guaranteed and $2.25 million in incentives.

FS Charles Woodson

DT Vance Walker -- signed three-year contract with Kansas City Chiefs worth max of $13.75 million, guaranteed at least $3.75 million.

DT Pat Sims

CB Mike Jenkins

DT Daniel Muir

CB Phillip Adams

S Usama Young -- has agreed to return to Raiders.

OT Tony Pashos

WR Jacoby Ford

DE Jason Hunter

C/G Andre Gurode

TE Jeron Mastrud

Who’s new?

OT Rodger Saffold (St. Louis Rams) -- agreed to five-year, $42,5-million deal, with $21-million guaranteed, with Raiders. Deal voided with Oakland’s concerns over health of Saffold’s shoulder, he re-signed with Rams.

RT Austin Howard (New York Jets) -- signed five-year, $30-million deal, with $15 million in guarantees, with Raiders.

DE Justin Tuck (New York Giants) -- signed two-year, $11-million deal with Raiders.

LB LaMarr Woodley (Pittsburgh Steelers) -- signed two-year contract worth up to $12 million with Raiders.

CB Tarell Brown (San Francisco 49ers) -- signed a one-year, $3.5-million deal with Raiders.

DE Antonio Smith (Houston Texans) --signed a two-year, $9-million deal with Raiders.

Who’s visited or will be visiting…reportedly?

DT Jason Hatcher (Dallas Cowboys) -- signed a four-year, $27.5-million contract with Washington.

DE Henry Melton (Chicago Bears)

DB Terrell Thomas (New York Giants)

RB Andre Brown (New York Giants)

LT Donald Penn (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

LB Dane Fletcher (New England Patriots)

LB Rob Jackson (Washington)

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