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Reggie McKenzie is bridging the gap to better days

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Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie looks on during a press conference on January 30, 2012 in Alameda, California.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie looks on during a press conference on January 30, 2012 in Alameda, California.

When Reggie McKenzie was hired on as the Raiders' general manager, he inherited quite a difficult financial situation. Initially it was assumed that the Raiders would be in a near impossible situation that would have them sacrificing immediate success for the hope of long term gain. But McKenzie is doing everything he can to ensure the Raiders will still compete this season.

The first sacrifice he made was cutting Stanford Routt. He would later cut Chris Johnson, leaving the Raiders without both of last season's starting corners. And with just second year corners DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa left on the roster, the secondary was in a state of desperation.

With the cutting of linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, and tight end Kevin Boss, the team now had several key positions to fill without a lot of money in which to fill them.

In addition, the team traded away nearly their entire 2012 draft with their first pick (prior to compensatory picks) not coming until the fifth round. There is not usually much that can be expected in the later rounds of the draft which can have an immediate impact on a team.

But thus far, McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen have set out to address the most glaring need in the secondary by signing four new corners. Cornerbacks Brandon Underwood, Ron Bartell, Shawntae Spencer, and Pat Lee have all joined the team on one year deals. In addition, the team has locked down safety Tyvon Branch with the franchise tag and restructured the contract of safety Michael Huff.

All of these moves ensure that the team will field a solid secondary, Dennis Allen's area of expertise, in 2012. Not all of the signings will be winners, but there is a great chance they can find two solid starters among them for at least next season.

All of the newly signed corners have had recent injury history or other issues.

Brandon Underwood has had several run-ins with the law and is hoping to get a fresh start with the Raiders. You can't really call it a "second chance" considering that he has been implicated in crimes on four different occasions-three times since joining the NFL. This prompted the Packers to eventually release him and he was out of football all of last season.

Ron Bartell was also out of football in 2011 after he suffered a broken neck. Such an injury can be a scary thing and most times will end a players' football career. He didn't garner much of any interest around the league and was essentially a forgotten man. Until he cleared medical tests and the Raiders signed him. Then everyone was like; "Oh yeah, Ron Bartell. I remember him."

Shawntae Spencer went down in camp for the 49ers last season with a hamstring injury. While he was out, he lost his starting job to newly signed Carlos Rogers. He never got that job back and Rogers went on to a Pro Bowl season. The team re-signed Rogers long term and Spencer became expendable.

Pat Lee was a former second round pick by the Packers in 2008. He couldn't break into the top three corners and was placed on injured reserve for the final few games of his rookie season. He was then lost for the entire 2009 season with a knee injury.

Between the four of them, as well as Van Dyke and Chekwa, the Raiders should have a group with whom they can feel comfortable bridging the gap until the 2013 off season when the Raiders will be in a much better position financially as well as have a near full stable of draft picks with which to properly build a team.

In the meantime, the Raiders still have a little scratch to afford to fill another position of need. As McKenzie says, the highest need is for a starting outside linebacker.

And who knows, the players they acquired have proven themselves to be talented or potentially talented and could stick around after this season as well.

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