Reggie McKenzie doesn’t particularly care how a player ends up in the Silver and Black.
A first-round draft pick? Great.
Someone acquired via trade or free agency? Yup, that’ll work too.
Heck, the Oakland Raiders General Manger doesn’t care if you went undrafted, and earned your way on to the roster after an invitation to Rookie Mini-Camp. At the end of the day, McKenzie wants the best 90 players on the roster headed into training camp, and over the next couple of months he’s going to work to do just that, and foster a spirit of competition once the pads come on.
“The bottom line is we’re not going to close the door any player that we’re really excited about, so if we have to go to 93 guys on the roster, by adding three guys that we just have to have after the draft, we’ll figure out a way to subtract three,” said McKenzie. “That’s just the way it is. We’re not going to just say ‘okay, we’re done,’ and wash our hands. No, we want to get the best 90-man roster. However we can do it, that’s what we’re going to do. Just let them compete.”
McKenzie, Head Coach Jon Gruden, and their respective staffs have added 15 players to the Raiders roster since the start of the league year, and while competition is certainly the name of the game for the Silver and Black right now, McKenzie was quick to note that these new additions were added for myriad reasons.
“Number one, we think we added some good players,” McKenzie said. “Number two, leadership, and three most of all, competition. That’s what we want to fill the roster with, as much competition as we could, with what we had to work with.”
McKenzie spoke to the media during the NFL’s League Meetings in Orlando, Fla., where he, Gruden, and the rest of the league’s 31 other clubs got together for a few days of business.
So, now almost three months into their working relationship, how are things going between McKenzie and the newest head coach of the Silver and Black?
Ask McKenzie, and the collaboration is going well; in fact, it’s giving the Raiders GM a little more clarity than in years past.
“The one thing about Gruden, I know exactly what he wants, which is great for me,” McKenzie explained. “I know exactly what his system [is] with [Defensive Coordinator] [Paul] Guenther, and I know exactly the kind of players they want at each and every position. That makes my job really a lot easier, instead of trying to figure out what works best, because we can communicate, and try to figure out – it doesn’t matter position, I know exactly what Coach Guenther wants on his defense. Cornerback, safety, linebacker, and it makes it easier for me and my staff.”
And as of late, McKenzie and his staff have indeed been busy, re-tooling the Raiders roster at almost every position, even if the players that they’re signing aren’t household names. That’s fine with him, like he keeps saying, it’s all about competition.
“It’s not about the ‘oohs and aahs,’ name players, we just want to get some good football players that will be great teammates and that will fit together as a team,” McKenzie said. “As long as they get out there and compete, compete their tails off to try to make each other better, hence making the team better, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Here are some other highlights from McKenzie’s Monday afternoon media session:
He spoke about signing veteran quarterback Josh Johnson:
*RM: *“Number one, familiar to the system, veteran guy that’s been around who can probably teach the system to the others, and just competition, like I said.”
He also discussed what newly-signed safety Marcus Gilchrist brings to the table:
*RM: *“You used the word correctly, the versatility, and that’s what he brings. He can do different things. He can play safety. He can play nickel. He can do a lot of things. He’s just a good football player, and to add him, a seasoned veteran like that, [we] just jumped at the chance to add him to the roster.”
McKenzie also talked about what went into the decision to ultimately trade wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to the New England Patriots:
*RM: *“Well, number one, getting back in the fifth round. That helped, and you said one of the things, clear up some space, financially. That’s one of the things we had to do.”
He also gave an update on the situation with free agent linebacker NaVorro Bowman:
*RM: *“I’ll say this, we would still love to have him back. Right now, we can’t come to an agreement, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want him, because we do.”
Marshawn Lynch will return to the Raiders in 2018, and that’s a big deal, according to McKenzie:
*RM: *“It means a lot. It means a great deal. Number one, it means that he really wants to be here, and be a part of this, and I think it means a lot to that locker room, on the offense mainly, that we have full intention of being a physical, offensive football team. That’s what it means number one.”
Even with the signing of Breno Giacomini, McKenzie expects there to be competition at right tackle:
*RM: *“It’s going to be competitive. They’re all going to compete. With [David] Sharpe, [Jylan] Ware, Denver [Kirkland], we have some guys. We think [offensive line] Coach [Tom] Cable is going to get his hands on them, and mold those young men to be some good players for us.”