Seven years Reggie McKenzie was the Raiders GM. Time flies, I tell ya. It wasn’t long after he took over the job that Raiders fans began spouting the ‘In Reggie We Trust’ mantra. What he did to earn that trust is difficult to say.
Early on, he presided over a full scale gutting of the roster. All the big contracts that had been handed out by Al Davis in his last few years as he made a push to win a championship were cut, leaving behind a considerable amount of dead money. And Carson Palmer — the quarterback Hue Jackson traded for was traded away and former Packers backup Matt Flynn was brought in to replace him. By the end of that season, it was undrafted rookie Matt McGloin starting for the team.
There wasn’t really anything genius or impressive about signing pink slips and making the Raiders into a non-competitive team. But the fans were trusting the process as a necessary one.
Then came the rebuild. That meant smart free agent contracts and smart draft picks. Once the team cleared dead money and gained money under the cap, the smart free agent contract became a common occurrence. They made big investments in the offensive line with signings such as Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele all while front loading their deals so that after a couple years, there would be little to no dead money left behind should they cut or trade them.
Outside of the 2014 draft that yielded Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, and Gabe Jackson, McKenzie’s draft track record was dismal. Part of the reason Gruden immediately began gutting the team of McKenzie’s former draft failures the moment he arrived.
The one major area people could point to as Reggie McKenzie’s strong suit was his free agent contracts. He was credited with bringing a smart, conservative approach that had been instilled in him from his many years in the Packers’ front office. An approach which was feared to be lost when he was fired and replaced by Mike Mayock.
Draft prep is Mayock’s specialty. By his own admission, things like contracts and pro personnel are weak areas, leading to discussions about potentially adding someone to the front office with experience in those areas. Though that has not happened.
From the sounds of it, however, the Raiders still have the key parts of the pro personnel department as constructed under McKenzie in place as well as the guy who Mayock credits for continuing to implement the kinds of contracts McKenzie was credited with handing out over his time in Oakland.
“Tom Delaney’s our chief salary cap guy,” said Mayock. “I will tell you this about Tom and his department. I think they’re on the cutting edge of all the data. We walk in our free agency room and what they can put up on three different screens as far as the history of players as far as what they’ve got and how they’ve gotten it and who the comps are for every player out there and kind of predict within a small percentage of where they think a deal’s gonna happen. And we did this with all our top guys.”
Those top acquisitions were wide receiver Antonio Brown — who they got in trade, but he still required a contract to be worked up, — offensive tackle Trent Brown, who was made the highest paid offensive lineman ever, defensive back Lamarcus Joyner, and wide receiver Tyrell Williams.
You may or may not have even known who Tom Delaney was before now. In which case, you might be surprised to learn he’s been with the Raiders for two decades. He became director of football administration in 2012 as part of a player personnel restructure under McKenzie. The Pleasanton, California native holds a math degree from UC Davis and worked in asset management as a financial analyst prior to joining the Raiders. He’s a numbers guy. Specifically the numbers that have dollar signs by them.
A couple of former GM names came up this offseason to potentially join the Raiders under Mayock to assist him in things like contracts and pro personnel. No hire has occurred and it sounds like one may not. Mayock seems to be content with the setup as is with Delaney advising him on that side of things, allowing Mayock to focus his talents elsewhere. Namely that glaring weak area of his predecessor — the draft.