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Reggie McKenzie: Raiders targeted free agents 'in their prime'

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last year during free agency, the overarching criticism of the Raiders' free agent haul was the age of the players they signed. Most of them were over 30 years of age or on the verge of that threshold. At the time, Reggie McKenzie was extolling the virtues of adding veteran players who have come from winning programs to help mentor the younger players.

In total the Raiders added 12 new players, 11 signed as free agents, and one via trade.

Those players were...

Austin Howard, 26
Justin Tuck, 30
LaMarr Woodley, 29
Tarell Brown, 29
Antonio Smith, 32
James Jones, 30
Kevin Boothe, 30
Donald Penn, 30
Matt Schaub (trade), 32
Maurice Jones-Drew, 29
C.J. Wilson, 26
Carlos Rogers, 32

As you can see, only two of these players are under the age 29, and one of those (C.J. Wilson) was not a projected starter. In fact, Wilson was the ONLY one of these additions who was not a projected starter, though he did start a few games in relief of the injured Lamarr Woodley. And the 3-13 result was just about what all the critics of the Raiders' free agency expected.

While there are a great many similarities with regard to the Raiders' approach to free agency this year, the one glaring difference is the age of the players they have signed. There have been nine free agents from other teams signed thus far.

Those players are:

Rodney Hudson, 25
Malcolm Smith, 25
Lee Smith, 27
Roy Helu Jr, 26
Curtis Lofton, 28
Dan Williams, 27
Nate Allen, 27
Christian Ponder, 27
James Dockery, 26

Definitely a stark contrast in ages this year to last with no players over 30 and only Curtis Lofton even as old as 28. Another contrast is only four of these players are projected starters - Hudson, Lofton, Williams, and Allen.

Reggie McKenzie spoke to a group of local media Saturday night and not surprisingly he said he "feel(s) really good" about the group of free agents they picked up. He added that they had a plan and it differed from the one he had this time last year.

"We wanted to get some guys that are in their prime and will give us a few years," said McKenzie. "We felt like the leadership that we have now, we can just add to the roster to get better. Last year was more, we let a lot of guys go early, feel like we didn't have the leadership. We got some guys who had played some years, and they provided a lot to your young players last year. Hopefully, we can grow from that, and continue. We'll continue to add some young players. That's what we wanted to do this year, get some youth, some starter-type guys and try to win some ballgames."

McKenzie said the team did make a run at Ndamukong Suh, saying only "we went after him". He ended up signing a monster contract with the Miami Dolphins.

The Raiders have yet to sign a receiver this free agency, though they had reported interest in Randall Cobb before he re-signed with the Green Bay Packers. McKenzie said of their attempts to add wide receivers "That's just the way it played out. We pursued some guys, and it's still decision by others, they have to make their decision. So you get some, and you don't (get some)."

He said of the reported interest in Greg Hardy that it was merely "information gathering".

McKenzie had said a few weeks ago that the difference between the team's focus this year and last was last year was more about "role players" and this year they were looking to add "impact players". His words have changed slightly from that to "starter-type" players. An interesting choice of words considering last year nearly every player they signed was with the intent to be a starter.

The definition of an "impact player" has been interpreted as players like Suh and Cobb and several others who were the most highly sought free agents; many of whom reportedly received interest from the Raiders in some regard, but signed elsewhere. The only player that may fit that bill is Rodney Hudson, who the team made the highest paid center in the league.

If you like, you can see "role players" of last season as those playing the role of veteran mentor. They got that from the likes of Charles Woodson, Justin Tuck, and Antonio Smith. McKenzie not as concerned about that with the new players. He wants the impact to be felt on the field and thus hopefully in the win column.