With a new PR director in place the Raiders took the unusual step – for them – of sending out the transcript from head coach Dennis Allen’s press conference during the NFL owners meetings in Florida on Tuesday.
To the average fan, it might not seem much. To reporters covering the team it was a monumental moment and yet another sign of the sweeping changes being made by general manager Reggie McKenzie.
McKenzie was given the keys to the franchise when he was hired by Mark Davis, and so far he’s leaving no stone unturned. That includes in the front office and on the business side of operations where McKenzie has been quietly building an organization to his liking.
On the field, the new GM hasn’t made the big name signing fans have been hoping for primarily because of financial restrictions. McKenzie and his staff had little praoblem getting under the NFL salary cap by ridding themselves of high-priced contracts for cornerback Stanford Routt, linebacker Kamerion Wimbley and tight end Kevin Boss, and getting other players with mega-deals to restructure.
The free agent signings continue to be more of the under-the-radar type. On Tuesday Oakland picked up cornerback Pat Lee, who was primarily a special teams player with Green Bay. Lee joins Ron Bartell, the Rams top cornerback, and Shawntae Spencer, the former 49er, as part of McKenzie’s makeover in the secondary.
The Raiders also signed guard Mike Brisiel from Houston and brought back guard Cooper Carlisle and tackle Khalif Barnes. With Stef Wisniewski set to become the full-time starting center, Carlisle will move from right guard to left guard while Brisiel is the projected starter on the right side. Jared Veldheer is locked in at left tackle, and Barnes is serviceable at right tackle.
McKenzie also got a bonus from the NFL in the form of compensatory picks for the draft. The Raiders picked up a much-needed third-rounder to go with picks in the fourth and fifth rounds after losing players like Nnamdi Asomugha, Zach Miller and Robert Gallery to free agency a year ago.
“I love this formula, I love it,” McKenzie said. “This was better than what I expected.”
McKenzie said he didn’t foresee any more major roster cuts coming, acknowledged the need to find a starting outside linebacker as well as upgrade the depth at quarterback and tight end.
Allen, meanwhile, continues to prepare for his first season as an NFL head coach. The Raiders offseason program begins Monday with the first mini-camp scheduled for April 17. Oakland will have three mini-camps in all, one more than most teams due to the team having a new head coach.
Allen continues to target the defense, his specialty, but said the news is encouraging as well on the offensive side. Specifically, Allen says he expects oft-injured running back Darren McFadden to be able to take part in offseason program without limitations.
“He’s still kind of going through the rehabilitation process,” Allen said. “He’s been back in Oakland working out. We expect him to fully be able to go through the offseason program and ready to roll.”