Around the NFL, the consensus for becoming a successful team in the league over the long haul is by building through the Draft and supplementing through free agency. One key element of the Draft process is the NFL Scouting Combine, which allows coaches, scouts and executives the opportunity to evaluate some of college football's most-talented prospects. After the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine concluded Monday in Indianapolis, all eyes have promptly shifted towards free agency, as the negotiating period officially kicked off on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. PT.
For the unaware, the negotiating period allows teams to contact the representatives of unrestricted free agents, and begin negotiating with them two days prior to the start of the new league year
Since taking over as General Manger, Reggie McKenzie has followed this formula nearly to perfection, and his work with the Silver and Black has garnered positive attention around the league, so much so that he was named the 2016 Pro Football Writers Association Executive of the Year.
"I'm very proud of him. It says a lot; he had to kind of overhaul the whole thing," said Packers General Manager Ted Thompson. "They look to be a very potent team."
With so much buzz surrounding the 2017 free agent class, let's take a look back at McKenzie's free agent signings from a season ago.
*With the new league year scheduled to begin Thursday, make sure to come back to Raiders.com regularly for continuous updates regarding free agency.
Guard Kelechi Osemele, Tackle Donald Penn, Wide Receiver Andre Holmes
It's no secret the Raiders offensive line was one of the best in 2016, after allowing only 18 sacks, and 41 quarterback hits, both which served as a league-best. The team's front line is anchored by a group of highly-gifted individuals that only improved after the addition of guard Kelechi Osemele, and was solidified by the re-signing of tackle Donald Penn.
Last season, the duo played a combined 2,145 snaps, on which they only allowed one sack, five quarterback hits, and 26 hurries. To put it lightly, those are some pretty outstanding numbers, and led to their Pro Bowl invitations at seasons end. Penn also hauled in a receiving touchdown back in Week 8 against his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While Penn's touchdown was out of the ordinary, the Silver and Black saw consistent production from wide receiver Andre Holmes. No. 18 might not be the flashiest or most glamorous among the team's wide receiver corps, but when called upon Holmes was a reliable asset. He finished the year with three receiving touchdowns and multiple clutch plays, especially on special teams. The Hillsdale-product makes his living in a variety of ways, oftentimes what makes him such a unique player are the things that don't show up on the stat sheet.
Safety Reggie Nelson, Cornerback Sean Smith, Safety Nate Allen, Safety Brynden Trawick, Linebacker Daren Bates, and Linebacker Bruce Irvin
Out of the Raiders' 16 total interceptions last year, the 2016 free agent class accounted for 10 of them. After adding more depth to the team's secondary, the Silver and Black got a blend of production from a variety of players. From cornerback Sean Smith to safeties Nate Allen, Brynden Trawick, and Reggie Nelson, the group collectively helped the defense improve against the pass compared to the 2015 campaign.
Most notably, the Raiders' pass rush benefitted from the addition of linebacker Bruce Irvin who tallied a total of seven sacks, one shy of his career-high, to go along with 57 tackles, and six forced fumbles, which was tied for the most in the league with Atlanta Falcons linebacker Vic Beasley, Jr.
Special Teams Coordinator Brad Seely orchestrated a well-oiled machine last season, which helped maximize the potential of players like Holmes, Trawick, and linebacker Daren Bates. Time and time again, the trio made important plays that impacted the team in a positive way. Whether it was bringing down the ball carrier deep in the opponents' territory or pinning the ball inside the 10-yard line, they all served an important role in the special teams unit.