NFL

Finally with money to spend, Raiders load up on veterans

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Ben Fisher, TSN.ca
8/30/2014 8:36:03 PM
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It took GM Reggie McKenzie two years to clean up the mess left in Oakland by former Raiders owner Al Davis.

For everything Davis did for the franchise in it's 54-year existence, the team was floundering under him late in his time presiding over the team.

When McKenzie was hired in early 2012, he probably circled March 11, 2014 on his calendar. He knew it would take two years to complete the team's much needed deconstruction, and it wouldn't be until March this year – the opening of free agency – that the Raiders would have a shot at actually building a sustainable winner.

But what happens when you have all the money to spend, but nothing to spend it on?

The answer, apparently, is to load up on aging veterans in a weak free agent crop, hoping they have enough gas to elevate the roster to competitiveness while at the same time mentor the fairly barren corps of young players who will one day, hopefully, form the nucleus of a winner.

The list of free agents whose motors at this stage in their careers are justifiably questioned is a long one, but it doubles as the list of players who will determine the Raiders ultimate fate this season, so McKenzie needs this gamble to pay off.

Matt Schaub, Maurice Jones-Drew, Donald Penn, Justin Tuck, Lamar Woodley, Antonio Smith, and Carlos Rogers will all be leaned on for one – or two – last strong seasons to bridge the gap while the Raiders build up their crop of young talent.

For their part, the veterans are saying all the right things. Phrases like “playing motivated” and “chip on our shoulder” have been thrown around a lot in Oakland leading up to the season.

The reality is that the Raiders should be more competitive this year, but still nowhere near able to challenge for a playoff spot, especially in the tough AFC West.

McKenzie and company feel strongly Schaub won't repeat his disastrous 2013 campaign, in which he broke the record for consecutive games throwing a pick-six, but it's unrealistic to think the 33-year-old will recapture the magic of his 2009 or 2010 season.

Other vets brought in, such as pass rushers Tuck, Woodley, and Smith, are too talented to completely fall off a cliff, the three combining for 21 total sacks just last season.

And at running back, so long as Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden alternate their weeks on the sideline with injuries, there's hope for the running game as well.

It's nearly impossible for the future to not look brighter than the past in Oakland, while young talents like Khalil Mack and Derek Carr give the fans tangible reasons to get excited. But the future may still be a couple years away.

The last two years were the deconstruction period, the next could very well be the rebuilding phase.

Justin Tuck (Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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