Raiders' new GM said when he first arrived that he loves his draft picks and undrafted free agents. He fit right in with the Green Bay Packer organization. Or perhaps you could say they fit with him. He came to Oakland sans nearly an entire draft in front of him. But as he told Peter King for Sports Illustrated, he is not complaining.
"Never thought, 'Woe is me,' '' said McKenzie. "Not once. Never thought I shouldn't take the job because of things like that either. It never entered my mind. I just figured, 'We'll find players.' I know how to find players. I've been in Green Bay when we found Mark Tauscher and Donald Driver late in drafts, and found Tramon Williams on the street, and signed Charles Woodson in free agency. It can be done.''
Al Davis made a few of the trades that saw the Raiders' 2012 draft depleted. And the big contracts he handed out last offseason are being pointed at as the reason for the contract situation that had the Raiders $26 million over the salary cap. But when Davis passed on, the draft picks kept leaving and high salaries kept arriving.
The Raiders draft this year had no second, third, or fourth round picks in it already because of previous trades. But the saving grace was the team still had that coveted first round pick. Then came the injury to Jason Campbell and the trade for Carson Palmer. And with his arrival came the departure of that first round pick. Also departing was the Raiders 2013 second round pick in the deal.
Aaron Curry was brought on board as well which cost the team their round seven pick in 2012 and a midround pick in 2013. And with Curry and Palmer came another $18.3 million in salary that needed to be dealt with.
McKenzie has dealt with the financial situation masterfully. And claims to be unfazed by the draft picks given up for Palmer as well "We've got a quarterback we think can win the division and take us to the playoffs," said McKenzie. "Losing a one and a two doesn't bother me one bit."
Sure, much of what McKenzie says in regards to the trade for Palmer is simply what he has to say. His track record suggests he would not have made such a trade but he must play with the hand he is dealt. And I think he truly believes Palmer is the right man to take the Raiders where they want to go so it isn't like it's a considerable loss.
Making things easier was the nice haul of compensatory picks the Raiders received. The team received the highest compensatory pick in the draft, pick 95 (for the loss of Nnamdi Asomugha) as well as fourth and fifth round compensatory picks. So they went from having just fifth and sixth round picks to a third, fourth, two fifths, and a sixth. This was cause for a great deal of excitement from McKenzie.
"I love it," said an excited McKenzie shortly after the compensatory picks were announced. "The thought I would possibly get a three, a high one for Nnamdi [Asomugha] and the other, obviously this was better than I expected. So I am extremely excited about the compensatory picks that the league has afforded to the Raiders. Hopefully we can make do and have a some goods from them."
The positions the Raiders were most in need this off season were linebacker and corner. And the cutting of Stanford Routt and Kamerion Wimbley only compounded that need. But what the Raiders have in McKenzie, head coach Dennis Allen, and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, is two linebacker guru's (McKenzie, Tarver) and a defensive backs guru (Allen).
It explains why the team has added several defensive backs as well as a linebacker and restructured Aaron Curry's deal to keep him with the team. It should also foretell the Raiders being able to find some strong talent at both positions late in the draft. Add offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and his zone blocking scheme prowess and we could see good low round finds along the offensive line as well.
Also, as McKenzie has pointed out, he also likes his undrafted free agents. So even when the draft is over, the Raiders will still be quite busy. They usually are, but never more so than this year.
McKenzie may not be in the most ideal situation, but he is doing everything in his power to make the best of it.