The odyssey of Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie’s quest to eliminate “out of whack” contracts and other malcontents has come to a close. With the official release of linebacker Rolando McClain on Monday (he was waived Friday, but did not clear waivers until Monday) McKenzie has eliminated every person and every contract he felt was detrimental to the Raiders long term success. The net result: though some may be re-signed, currently only 17 of the 53 plus players including those on injured reserve when the Hue Jackson led Raiders lost to the Chargers in 2011 in finish 8-8 remain. Only 7 of those 17 are under contract for the 2014 season. Hue Jackson was right when he said “Reggie is going to gut this place” and as any situation where a new manager takes over a financially over-extended and under-performing business, it was much needed and long overdue. This will be looked at in a future post though.
First, McClain. While his contract wasn’t Mr. Al Davis’ fault, he was another in a long line of 1st round failures. While drafted to much hype, questions about how he would translate to an even front defense and having to cover more ground weren’t heard too often. People were happy to finally have a promising young linebacker to man the middle for years after many 1st round reaches and busts. Lauded for his intelligence, work ethic, and instincts, McClain was supposed to be the poster child for a turn around of both the team and the way the team drafted hopefully. As most things have gone with the Raiders, it obviously didn’t quite turn out that way.
McClain was often exposed in coverage, though part of that was exacerbated when at times he was inexplicably asked to cover the likes of Calvin Johnson 25 yard plus downfield. McClain never seemed to comfortable in space and struggles sideline to sideline. While he would deliver some ferocious hits if the player was not too far down the field and between the tackles, not only would McClain often fail to show up elsewhere, he had many a mental lapse as most of the Raiders defense often did. One such example was a game against the Packers in Green Bay in late 2011. McClain had crept up right behind Richard Seymour and they both shot the same gap at the snap. Instead of letting the play unfold and acting more in a “contain” role, McClain along with the defensive tackles shot straight through giving up positioning as usual, enabling a 47 yard touchdown. The Raiders defense was obliterated that game, giving up 4 touchdowns in 2 quarters.
As often was the problem with the rest of the defense, they gambled a lot, and for every impressive play they made, their lack of discipline caused them to give up many more. When the defense gave up a bad play, it was often atrocious, and they were continually gashed in this manner. McClain, like the rest of the defense, didn’t lack all that much physical talent, but the mental discipline aspect of the game was always non-existent for them. Now, that will be the problem of a different team and hopefully in the past for the Raiders.
As for the financial aspect of the move, while we still don’t know if a non-vested player can be designated a June 1st release after clearing waivers and having his contract terminated, the point is pretty much moot. The reason for this is that according to the always informative Joel Corry, McClain’s base salary guarantees of $1,535,000 in 2013 and $2,100,000 in 2014 were voided thanks to Al Davis’ always cautious contract language. Because of this, the Raiders are “only” on the hook for $7,260,000, a small increase of $585,000 over what would have been his cap figure of $6,675,000. For a player with attitude questions, off the field antics, and subpar play, it was an obvious move to make despite being essentially a cap neutral move. McClain was Al Davis’ last 1st round pick and in many ways represented a lot of things about the last few years of the Raiders. At one time he represented hope, which turned out to be false. He represented a failure of the 1st round drafting process for the Raiders, the last one of that time before the picks of the next two years were traded. McClain represented the flashing of talent along with the maddening inconsistency that plagued the team. There are a lot of things McClain represented but now he represents just one thing about the Raiders: the old way of building a team has in effect, been terminated. Overpaid and underperforming talent are things of the past and will not be part of the plan going forward. Well, except for Mike Brisiel, but no one is perfect.
After this move, the Raiders had roughly $7,900,000 in salary cap space (and an amazing $46,357,222 in dead money), but have since signed CB Mike Jenkins, FS Usama Young, and re-signed DE Andre Carter and CB Joselio Hanson so the number doesn’t hold much use now. I’d anticipate it’s at least 3 million less, if not more. I also believe based on the reports from the NFLPA, that RB Jeremy Stewart, OL Alex Parsons, and CB Brandian Ross have been tendered contracts as ERFAs. I’ll be looking at where the Raiders go from here at some point, and as Jason mentioned in his podcast, perhaps what could have been done last offseason, but for now, I’ll let the dust settle with the completion of the demolition.
Jim can be reached at JimOTC@gmail.com