Reggie McKenzie became the Oakland Raiders General Manager back in 2012. He came from the Green Bay Packers organization where he worked closely with their GM Ted Thompson. There was a lot of speculation about how much of the Packers operating procedures he would bring with him, and almost 4 years later we are starting to see strong similarities between the organizations.
The blueprint that the Packers created under Ted Thompson has been circulating around quite a bit in Alameda County, and this week's extensions of Jamize Olawale and Michael Crabtree fit perfectly within it's perimeters. A staple of Ted Thompson's strategy for the Packers has been to extend players at some point in the final year of their contracts instead of waiting for the contract to expire and negotiating after the free agency period has started.
In the final two years of Reggie McKenzie's tenure in the Midwest Ted Thompson used this strategy with WR Jordy Nelson (2011), G Josh Sitton (2011), CB Tramon Williams (2010), S Charles Woodson (2010), and T Bryan Bulaga (2010). Each time it was on key players that they did not want to let test the open market, and each one of these players had successful seasons afterward.
The Packers are a good team that is mostly home grown talent. They have built their team by drafting well and re-signing key players before they are allowed to test the open market. What good is finding solid players if you let them leave when their contracts are up? This is a lesson that Reggie McKenzie seems to have learned well.
Michael Crabtree and Jamize Olawale are not the only two players that the Raiders have re-signed like this in Reggie McKenzie's tenure in Oakland either. He re-signed Marcel Reece and Sebastian Janikowski in 2013 during their final year's of their contracts. He also re-signed Taiwan Jones in February of 2013 before allowing him to test free agency and also with Khalif Barnes in 2014 on a one year deal.
With the team that McKenzie inherited in 2012 it is not a surprise that there were not many times that he did try to re-sign players before they hit free agency for the first couple of years. He inherited a team bereft in talent and there simply were not many players worthy of keeping around from the previous era of Raiders football.
There were a few players that McKenzie wanted to try and keep, some he managed and some he didn't. He attempted to re-sign Jared Veldheer before he could hit free agency but talks broke down with him in 2013. Same for Stefen Wisniewski in 2014 who came out publicly mid-season that he was in negotiations with the Raiders but they were far apart in numbers. The strategy might not have worked with those two, but attempts were still made to keep them from the open market.
We should expect to see the Raiders re-signing their own players more often now that they have started to develop such a strong foundation for the future. They are starting to fill up the roster with drafted players and they are attempting to re-sign their players instead of searching through the hit or miss free agency period in the NFL. The few free agents signed are big ones, and they are being retained too.
We can rest easy with assurance that McKenzie is identifying his key players and doing what he needs to do to keep them. We shouldn't have to worry about retaining our own home grown talent just like the Packers have been known to do. The Raiders did not become the "Packers West" as people feared in the early stages of Reggie McKenzie's tenure, but he is still using what he learned within the Green Bay organization here in Oakland. Most of us will agree, that is a good thing.