Raider fans waiting for the team to make a big splash in the free agent market will have to continue to hold their breath, but Monday’s decision to bring back safety Matt Giordano shouldn’t be overlooked either.
Giordano led the Raiders with five interceptions in 2011 when he also had 70 tackles while playing in 15 games. He was one of the few playmakers the team had in its defensive secondary, which has been targeted for upgrade this offseason, and he also has a history, brief as it may be, with both rookie head coach Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie.
The re-signing of Giordano follows on the heels of other lesser-talked-about moves like the signing of defensive end Dave Tollefson, the trade for backup running back Mike Goodson and the additions of cornerback Ron Bartell and guard Mark Brisiel.
None of them generated much excitement in the Raider Nation, which has been antsy ever since Hue Jackson was fired following the team’s second consecutive 8-8 finish. Instead of the big-name signings that late owner Al Davis was known to make, often with outrageously ludicrous contracts (Larry Brown, DeAngelo Hall, Javon Walker, Stanford Routt) tied to them, McKenzie has taken a more mild approach in free agency.
He had no other choice, really.
McKenzie was strapped by a payroll that was hemorrhaging, making his first priority getting the books in order. He did that with relatively little pain (losing outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley hurts, though he was only mediocre in coverage), then used what free money he did have on some lesser-known players to fill some of the team’s holes.
Giordano will most likely be Oakland’s nickel back and could end up starting alongside strong safety Tyvon Branch if Mike Mitchell doesn’t do something to distinguish himself. Tollefson’s arrival helps the pass rush, while Bartell and Shawntae Spencer are clearly better than the Routt-Chris Johnson combo the Raiders had out there in 2011.
Don’t expect much to change over the remainder of free agency. A second wave of signings will come after the draft, but McKenzie will continue to be a value shopper because he’s operating with significant restraints, restraints that won’t be there next year when we’ll get a better gauge of McKenzie’s acumen.
Until then, expect the Raiders to maintain their low profile in free agency.