Can the Raiders offseason spending spree turn the team around?

By Josh Katzowitz | NFL Writer

If Reggie McKenzie, right, falter this year, will Mark Davis look to start over again? (USATSI)
If Reggie McKenzie, right, falters this year, will Mark Davis look to start over again? (USATSI)

In the final years of the Al Davis era in Oakland, the team became awfully predictable.

The Raiders would draft somebody whose 40 time was blazing who, then, would usually run himself right into irrelevance. The team, when it had to replace a head coach, would turn to somebody with an offensive background before replacing THAT coach two years later. A coach would fight another coach, and a PR spokesman would scream at a media member while coach Lane Kiffin looked on in curiousity. And the team would win about four games a year.

After Davis died, his son, Mark Davis, took over the team, and with the hiring of Reggie McKenzie as the general manager -- a man who came from Green Bay who had a strong reputation -- we wondered if, at last, Oakland could return to playing as an AFC elite. Sure, McKenzie almost immediately fired Hue Jackson after just one year as head coach and after leading the Raiders to an 8-8 record -- one of the franchise's high-water marks of the past decade -- but you could make the argument that McKenzie just wanted to bring in his own coach.

But as the team enters its third season with McKenzie as the GM and Dennis Allen as the head coach, Oakland has had back-to-back 4-12 seasons, and once again, the franchise appears headed nowhere. If things don't improve in 2014, it seems obvious that Mark Davis will fire McKenzie and Allen, and the Raiders will have to start over again.

That could be why Oakland doesn't seem to be trying to rebuild at this point and why it's spent much of the offseason acquiring talent that once was high end but now is aging into eventual retirement. That's probably the only explanation, right?

While the Broncos clearly have been adding veteran talent this season because they know they're in a closing window of trying to win a Super Bowl, and even though their latest acquisitions are going to force them to rebuild the organization within the next couple years, it'd be worth it to land that Vince Lombardi trophy.

The Raiders seem to have the same mindset as their AFC West rivals. The difference, of course, is that Oakland hasn't made the postseason since 2002 and, at this point, is nowhere near competing for the playoffs.

Yet, the team signs running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who's inching ever so much closer to 30 and who hasn't had a 1,000-yard season since 2011. It signs defensive tackle Antonio Smith, defensive end Justin Tuck, safety Charles Woodson, cornerback Carlos Rogers and linebacker LaMarr Woodley -- all of whom have combined for 13 Pro Bowls but who average 32 years old.

And of course, it trades for quarterback Matt Schaub, who is coming off the worst season of his career and who lost his job to Case Keenum last year. For that, the Raiders gave up a sixth-round draft pick (seriously, who cares about rebuilding?).

And yet, the team also traded away Terrelle Pryor. I'm not saying that was a bad move, especially with the way Pryor regressed toward the end of the year in 2013, but if you're trying to develop young players into becoming cornerstones of the franchise, Pryor is a guy who might have been worth the effort.

Oh, and perhaps most shockingly, the Raiders stood idly by and watched defensive end Lamarr Houston and left tackle Jared Veldheer -- both of whom are 26 years old and who were two of the team's best young players -- depart for free agency. And then, the team's apparent replacement for Veldheer, Rodger Saffold, failed his physical anyway.

Still, the current Raiders players seem confident. Jones-Drew said Schaub could lead Oakland to the Super Bowl (he couldn't do it, of course, with the Texans, who had much more talent than the Raiders) and Charles Woodson is confident the squad will get to the playoffs this season (even though the AFC West is one of the toughest divisions in football).

"No doubt about it. I don't see why not," Woodson said last month. "I ain't looking four or five years down the road. I fully expect to be in the playoffs this year."

This would be a great attitude -- Win Now, Baby! as Al Davis might have said -- if Oakland didn't have other questions. Like, will the Raiders have any kind of cohesive running game? Can Schaub suddenly become a top-10 quarterback? How will his protection be? Will the older free agents -- Rogers, Woodson, and Tuck -- keep playing at a high level?

If you believe, as I do, the Raiders should be rebuilding instead of taking a chance on these older free agents, you have to have faith that they can build through the draft. But two of the most effective players they've drafted in the past 10 years were Veldheer and Houston. And those guys are gone.

Thus, if you can't draft, you spend a ton of money in free agency. Which oftentimes doesn't work either.

So, even if the Raiders have made what look to be solid free-agent acquisitions this offseason, the chances of the team recording a winning record -- much less making the playoffs -- are slim.

And the carousel continues to spin.

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