After taking a lot of flak in the opening salvo of free agency (see Saffold, Veldheer, Houston), Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has settled down and is making saavy moves.
While he hasn’t signed any big names, he is taking chances on veterans that can help in a temporary transition period. He already began it with Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley, and Antonio Smith.
This past week, he further enhanced the team with more quality signings, getting James Jones, Kevin Boothe, and Donald Penn; resigning Usama Young and Charles Woodson; and trading for Matt Schaub.
All come on very team friendly deals. The most expensive is picking up Schaub’s contract, but he has agreed to restructure his base salary to lower it. While Woodson’s, Young’s, and Penn’s contract numbers are unknown, they were cheap enough free agents to not command over payment.
Each fills a positive role on the team. Penn helps replace Jared Veldheer at left tackle, but is not as talented as the latter. Boothe brings stabilization to the guard position, where a rotation of Lucas Nix, Tony Bergstrom, Mike Brisiel, and Khalif Barnes mans both spots. Boothe was a solid starter for the Giants, including on their Super Bowl team. Jones was a reliable top receiver for another Super Bowl champion, the Green Bay Packers. Although Jones is nearing 30, he still has the hands and skills to succeed.
Woodson and Young are good resignings to restock the free safety spot where there was currently no one. While Woodson started every game, Young showed well enough last season to earn a shot at the starting job.
Finally there is the pinnacle trade for quarterback Matt Schaub. Schaub is coming off one of the worst seasons by a quarterback, throwing pick sixes in four consecutive games and getting benched for an undrafted free agent.
While Schaub is getting paid somewhere near $10 million this season, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee he will be the starter. Schaub regressed horribly and might not be able to kick the funk. However, he is the most experienced quarterback available and can lead the offense.
Schaub now means that quarterback is no longer an emergency need. They still can go after another free agency bargain, like Josh Freeman, or a quarterback with the fifth pick if there isn’t anyone they particularly like.
Reggie McKenzie is now finally showing his skills as general manager. While he may not have built up a strong roster in his first big offseason, he is buying himself a team to save his job and possibly get above four wins.