In my opinion, Reggie McKenzie has done an outstanding job this off-season by releasing players that are either old, disruptive or costly, to replace them with young players with potential. McKenzie also aced the draft by bringing in 3 potential starters (D.J. Hayden, Sio Moore & Menelik Watson now at LT) and several other very promising players (Brice Butler, Tyler Wilson, David Bass & Nick Kasa).
Since McKenzie has done a great job putting a young team together with little cap space to work with and not a lot of draft picks to begin with, so let's look at what he can do in 2014. The Raiders will have $69 Million in cap space to work with, but the truth is that McKenzie isn't going to go out there and blindly spend money the way Philadelphia Eagles or Al Davis did in the past, McKenzie plans to use the money conservatively. For starters, most of money will go towards re-signing the players with expiring contracts (Darren McFadden, Jared Veldheer, Lamarr Houston, Mike Jenkins, Vance Walker, Marcel Reece, Jacoby Ford & maybe Charles Woodson).
So Raiders fans must be thinking, are the Raiders going to sign any big free agents at all? Yes, but not any massive ones (Matt Ryan & Geno Atkins) or any veterans (Maurice Jones-Drew & Jared Allen). So here are the free agents they might sign in 2014 and what their age would be in 2014:
Michael Johnson, 27, DE: The reason why the Raiders would sign a Defensive End rather than drafting one is because if they do want to draft one, it would be Jadeveon Clowney and they're not going to get him because odds are that he would either be the 1st or 2nd overall pick (depending on where Teddy Bridgewater goes) and I just don't think Raiders are going to be that bad to get either one of those picks. With that being said, Michael Johnson is a very unappreciated player who racked up 11.5 sacks last season and is only going to get better.
Josh Freeman, 26, QB: IF Matt Flynn doesn't work out (big if), then the Raiders would be looking to move him and be looking for a new quarterback. And I don't think the Raiders would be drafting one because there is only 2 good quarterbacks in the draft and that's Teddy Bridgewater and Tahj Boyd, like I said, Bridgewater will probably go 1st or 2nd and the Raiders won't get a pick that high. And I don't Reggie would want to invest in Boyd because he's inconsistent. Since Freeman is in a make it or break it year, if he ends up impressing, there could be other teams looking to sign him, and Raiders could be one of them.
So those are 2 free agents I could see the Raiders going after but Freeman is less likely because I do believe Matt Flynn would have a good year. Now after free agency comes the draft, and there several players I think the Raiders should go after:
Louis Nix III, DT: Defensive Tackle became an issue earlier this off-season when the Raiders decided to part ways with Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly, and Reggie McKenzie's answer was Vance Walker and Pat Sims. Though I think that Vance Walker is going to break out this season in his starting role but I don't think Pat Sims would, because Sims is injury prone, he participated only in one full day in training camp. So the Raiders need a replacement at Defensive Tackle and I think the answer is Louis Nix, who is also a perfect fit in Reggie McKenzie's regime because Nix is a very charismatic guy and loves the game of football.
Silas Redd, RB: The Raiders would need a running back, mainly because Rashad Jennings' contract would be expiring and the Raiders probably won't renew it because he would be 29 at the end of the season and also because the Raiders might not renew Darren McFadden's contract if he doesn't play to his potential this season. Assuming Darren McFadden does in fact plays to his potential, Silas Redd is still a player the Raiders should love to have because he's a Running Back with a lot of potential, it gives them a Running Back they need to go with Latavius Murray & Darren McFadden and it's probably only going to cost the Raiders a 3rd round pick.
So these are some of the things I think Reggie McKenzie should do to make the Raiders legitimate playoff contenders. Don't be afraid to tell me what you think McKenzie should in 2014 down in the comment section.