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NFL Free Agency: Raiders building culture of winning

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New York Giants Justin Tuck puts a hit on Patriots QB Tom Brady in Super XLVI
New York Giants Justin Tuck puts a hit on Patriots QB Tom Brady in Super XLVI
Gregory Shamus

There are many ways to build a winning team. Of course the tried and true method is to build through the draft. But for a team that wants to win right now and has as many holes to fill as the Raiders, the draft isn't enough. So, until they can use the draft to build a team that is competitive in the long run, they must use a different method - sign winners.

There is a mindset that players who are used to winning and have "been there" bring to a team. They expect to win and they know how to go about doing it. That's what the Raiders are thinking this free agency in their approach to signing players.

One of the first players they added was former Giants defensive end, Justin Tuck. He brings with him two Super Bowl rings from his time in New York. And as an extra bonus, the man who will dawn a Raiders jersey with the name TUCK emblazoned across the back sacked Tom Brady 4.0 times in the Giants' two Super Bowl wins against the Patriots.

With the hardware he already has in his trophy case and on his fingers, I asked the 30-year-old defensive end what he still hopes to accomplish in his career with the Raiders.

"Win more Super Bowls," Tuck responded. "Everyone talks about ‘once you turn 30 it's all downhill', I don't believe that, I don't look at myself in that regard, I feel like I got a lot of great football left in me. I think the assets that I bring to this team off the field is tremendous also as far as leadership and just how I interact with the community and become integrated with Raider Nation and that's something that I'm looking forward to doing."

Tuck said he would become a recruiter to convince other free agents to sign with the Raiders. Shortly after he has signed, former Steelers pass rusher, Lamarr Woodley, signed a contract to join the Raiders.

Woodley too knows winning ways. Like Tuck, he has been to two Super Bowls, and he sports a Super Bowl ring.

"Me and Justin both have played in two Super Bowls," said Woodley. "Sometimes when you have to change the course of the locker room a little bit, you have to bring guys in that have been there and who have won and played in Super Bowls because at the end of the day, guys in this league want to play in a Super Bowl, they want to have that feeling and sometimes you have to bring guys in that know how to get there. Once you bring guys in that know how to get there, now you have to get the players to follow you and you can have a better understanding of how to get to the next level."

They weren't done with the defensive line, either. They then added Antonio Smith who -- you guessed it-- has been to a Super Bowl. He went to the Super Bowl while he was with the Arizona Cardinals and just lost in a shootout against Woodley's Steelers team.

After adding the pass rushers, the Raiders went after shoring up the secondary. For that they signed Tarell Brown who, of course played in a Super Bowl with the 49ers two seasons ago. He commented on the value in adding guys like Tuck and Woodley to his making the decision to come to Oakland.

"I think it's a domino effect. I think anytime you bring in guys that have won a lot of games and have played in a lot of big games as well and have had a lot of success in this league, it definitely helps. We can kind of put things in perspective and guide younger guys in the direction of saying, ‘Look, get under my wing and this is how you do it in the NFL to be successful.' So, bringing those guys in, it'll definitely help this team out; me as well."

From there, the team moved to the offensive side of the ball, signing wide receiver James Jones. Aside from Jones being a Bay Area native and having a great relationship with Reggie McKenzie from their time together in Green Bay, Jones too has a Super Bowl ring.

Jones also understands what it means to infuse veterans who are used to winning.

"I think that'll be huge just from a leadership standpoint," said Jones. "A lot of those guys, a lot of us have been in the big game, won the Super Bowl so we know what it takes to get there and just our presence in the locker room, our presence on the practice field just hopefully we can just show the young guys how to practice, show the young guys what it's gonna take to get to the next level and hopefully that will rub off on them and we'll be able to turn around and do some great things."

The latest signing the Raiders made was to add offensive guard, Kevin Boothe. He was drafted by the Raiders but played just one season in Oakland. He then joined the Giants where he, along with Justin Tuck won two Super Bowls.

All told, the Raiders have added seven outside free agents this off-season. Six of those players have played in a Super Bowl. The only player the Raiders added who doesn't have any playoff experience is right tackle Austin Howard who has just two years of experience as a starting right tackle for the New York Jets. But even without his experience, there is plenty of winning among their new acquisitions.

Here is a rundown of the winning accomplishments of the free agents the Raiders added:

Playoff games: 43

Playoff wins: 30

Conference championship games: 11

Super Bowl appearances: 9

Super Bowl rings: 6

Adding players who have seen those kinds of winning numbers is just the kind of confidence boost and mindset Reggie McKenzie thinks this team needs. A Raiders club that has seen zero playoff appearances over the past 12 seasons. It's hard to argue with that.