July 24, 2012 – Vincent Frank
Once again, the Oakland Raiders franchise was forced to go through another massive overhaul. The death of long-time owner Al Davis coupled with front office issues forced their hand.
New managing partner Stephan Davis made the decision to start from square one. Only on the job one season, Hue Jackson was fired as the Raiders’ head coach. The younger Davis also made a wise decision to bring in long-time Green Bay Packers’ executive Reggie McKenzie to run the front office. For the first time in nearly a half-century this franchise actually has a general manager to run things, not just a figurehead. McKenzie’s first order of business was to hire a head coach, former Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, who becomes the youngest head man in the NF, which has become somewhat of a trend with this franchise.
McKenzie’s second order of business was to “cut” the proverbial fat from a roster that had grown a bit too right in this salary cap era. The time for fiscal discipline and modern economic philosophy under the cap was now for a new Raiders organization.
They released Kamerion Wimbley and Stanford Routt, both starters along their previously under achieving defense. Both were wildly overpaid as well. This is what McKenzie was talking about in regards to fiscal discipline.
Even with those two large contract off the roster, Oakland was in a precarious salary cap situation and didn’t have a whole lot of money to spend. Additionally, they were missing selections in each of the first three rounds of the draft due to trades made by previous regimes. Although a slew of compensatory selections helped a bit, it is safe to say that McKenzie was behind the proverbial eight-ball.
That being said, the new general manager did an amazing job with what he had.
Oakland made a few tremendous under-the-radar signings in the offseason. First, they were able to bring in one of the best run-blocking guards in the form of Mike Brisiel, formerly of the Houston Texans. He fits the Raiders zone-blocking scheme to a T and will be a tremendous upgrade over who they had there previously.
Dave Tollefson may have gotten lost in the New York Giants elite front-seven, but make no mistake about it, he was one hell of a rotational performer for the defending Super Bowl Champions last season. The veteran defensive end will come in to spell starter Lamarr Houston on the left side of the line.
Oakland also brought in two veteran cornerbacks who are coming off injury. Shawntae Spencer started every game for the San Francisco 49ers in 2009 and 2010 before seeing an injury-plagued season cost him a spot in their improved secondary. If healthy, Spencer will be a nice little addition. Ron Bartell was a fixture in the St. Louis Rams secondary from 2007 to 2010, starting a total of 55 games during that span. While these two veterans cannot be counted on as true shutdown guys, they add depth and experience to a secondary that was lacking in those two areas last season.
Oakland utilized the trade route to replace backup running back Michael Bush when they acquired Mike Goodson from the Carolina Panthers. General manager Reggie McKenzie had previously stated he wasn’t going to trade future picks for veterans and maintained that philosophy in sending Bruce Campbell to the Panthers in the trade.
Goodson, also coming off an injury-plagued season, tallied nearly 800 total yards for the Panthers in 2010. While he wont be able to match the production of Bush, the veteran running back came in on the cheap.
There wasn’t much to see in regards to the draft though. The Raiders first selection was the final pick of the third round. That being said, they did a pretty decent job with what they had to work with.
Third-round pick Tony Bergstrom from Utah figures to challenge for the starting left guard position with incumbent Cooper Carlisle. The former Ute’ has the experience and physical ability to move inside from tackle and be a solid force for the next decade. He was, by all accounts, one of the better mid-round selections in the entire draft.
Another favorite, Miles Burris in the fourth round, fills a tremendous need for depth and young talent at the outside/weak side position for Oakland. All he did at San Diego State was become one of the most productive linebackers in the entire country. Of course people will question the talent that Burris played against in college, but that cannot be held against him right now.
Many experts, including myself, had Juron Criner going in the third round. The Arizona product fits the mold of Oakland’s previous regime, namely the deceased Al Davis, in terms of speed. Look for him to add an immediate deep threat for Carson Palmer in the passing game.
These are the moves that solid franchises make. They are signs that McKenzie took the Packers philosophy with him to Northern California. While they might not payoff in the form of a postseason performance in 2012, the Raiders are much better off with the talented general manager at the helm.
Free Agent Signings
CB- Ron Bartell, St. Louis Rams
G- Mike Brisiel, Houston Texans
RB- Mike Goodson, Carolina Panthers (Trade)
QB- Matt Leinart, Houston Texans
FB- Owen Schmidt, Philadelphia Eagles
CB- Shawntae Spencer, San Francisco 49ers
DE- Dave Tollefson, New York Giants
LB- Phillip Wheeler, Indianapolis Colts
2012 NFL Draft Picks
3. G- Tony Bergstrom, Utah
4. LB- Miles Burris, San Diego State
5. DE- Jack Crawford, Penn State
5. WR- Juron Criner, Arizona
6. DE- Christo Bilukidi, Georgia State
7. LB- Nathan Stupar, Penn State