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Bargain Signings Could Pay off for the Raiders

Mike Jenkins is the latest bargain free agent to land with the Raiders.
Mike Jenkins is the latest bargain free agent to land with the Raiders.USA TODAY Sports
Christopher HansenNFL AnalystApril 9, 2013

The Oakland Raiders have a lot of needs and there’s no sense sugarcoating it. A lack of top talent has led many to refer to Oakland’s roster as the worst in football. Although the Raiders are at least a couple years away from being contenders, it’s too early to judge the 2013 roster. After all, you wouldn’t judge a house under construction that doesn’t have running water, electricity or a roof.

Essential pieces of the puzzle are missing in Oakland and the Raiders haven’t had the draft picks or the salary cap space to get them. The Raiders signing of players like Mike Jenkins (team announced) and Andre Carter (confirmed by Ian Rapoport of NFL.com) are just examples of the Raiders buying lumber.

It’s not the most important or the most expensive, but even the finest materials are still just covering a bunch of unsexy two-by-fours. Framing is one of the least expensive and most essential parts of building a house. Everything fits around the frame and that’s why all these bargain signings could pay off for the Raiders.

Unlike last year, the Raiders have had the resources to sign younger players. The average age of the players McKenzie has signed is 27.6 years-old. The only player to over the age of 30 that was given a multi-year deal was linebacker Kevin Burnett and the Raiders can easily release him after one season with minimal impact (via spotrac.com figures).

The pessimistic view is that the Raiders have a mountain of dead-money that can’t be used on players in 2013, but there are only a handful of free agents that would have been worth signing anyway. McKenzie came to Oakland from Green Bay and the Packers had $17.8 million in cap space last week according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Getting rich is not always about spending. Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, published his tips for getting rich in a literal sense back in 2008. The same principle can be applied to getting rich from a talent perspective. Cuban’s first tip for getting rich is to save your money.

“Being a smart shopper is the first step to getting rich,” Cuban said.

You might say the Raiders are shopping from the bargain bin, but what they are really doing is being smart. The Raiders don't have to be smart, they could easily have pushed money into future years in order to sign more expensive free agents. The teams that do that will always be strapped for cash.

“The first step to getting rich is having cash available,” Cuban said. “You are saving for the moment you need cash.”

The Raiders purged contracts so they can start living within their means and saving cash for the moment they need it. The Packers are about to need their cash to give a contract extension to Aaron Rodgers. If a great free agent was available in free agency that would help the Packers, they would have the money to sign him and probably still have money to spare. The Raiders don’t have the cash yet, but they will have it starting next season.

“Cash is king for those wanting to get rich, ” Cuban said. 

The NFL also has something called the draft, which is where all the best deals can be found. Draft picks are like another form of cash that the Raiders don’t have enough of in 2013. Future draft picks are like a form of credit that the Raiders have been trading away for the last several years for quick fixes.

“If you use a credit card, you don’t want to be rich,” Cuban said. “The first step to getting rich requires discipline.”

McKenzie also had to have the discipline to pay off the Raiders’ credit card by purging the roster of cap dollars spent on players that were not helping the team win games. The Raiders even had to pass on re-signing Desmond Bryant because it was more important to set the team up with the cash it needs in the future.

“This is not a short term project,” Cuban said. “We aren’t talking days. We aren’t talking months. We are talking years.”

The Raiders aren’t going to get rich quick, that’s just not how things work when you blow through cash and borrow from the future. McKenzie’s bargain free agents and roster purge are part of the framework to making the Raiders rich, both figuratively and literally.

Things can still go wrong. There's no guarantee the bargain signings will be good signings or that the Raiders will use their draft picks wisely, but at least they are on the right path.

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