When Jon Gruden returned with $100 Million through ten seasons, Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie’s tenure was presumed dead. Talking heads and national pundits began speculating that McKenzie is on the clock, and that if Gruden wanted him replaced Mark Davis would not step in. Considering everything else McKenzie’s run survived, he deserves more credit than that. While McKenzie certainly lost some juice within the organization with Gruden’s return, he appears safe. With one of the best draft classes in franchise history, a contract that runs through 2021, and a long-standing relationship with Mark Davis, it is almost a certainty McKenzie sees the team to Las Vegas.
Much can be made about players “falling” into McKenzie’s lap, and the Hayden selection certainly stings. Yet. the notion that McKenzie cannot find talent is overblown. Entering the 2014 draft, Charles Woodson just returned and Matt Flynn was the expected starter at quarterback In addition, the team had not won more than eight games in a decade. McKenzie knew he had to get slam-dunks and four seasons later, five of his eight picks are still with the team. His success that season was almost unprecedented, as Khalil Mack and Derek Carr already have six pro-bowl selections between them. Gabe Jackson has become a fixture at Right Guard on one of the best interior Offensive Lines in the league. If the class can deliver on a few deep playoff runs, it will receive the lion’s share of the credit .
Before the 2016 season lifted the organizations view from respectability to contention, McKenzie was still waiting. Derek Carr flashed and alternated into a Pro Bowl and Khalil Mack emerged as a force. The Raiders started to wake from their slumber, and Mark Davis knew that McKenzie was the driving force behind it. For this reason, Reggie McKenzie was re-signed for four years and more or less given a chance at truly leading the franchise. That off-season he re-signed integral cogs Michael Crabtree and Donald Penn while poaching Kelechi Osemele and Bruce Irvin. For his work in 2016 after his re-signing, McKenzie was the NFL’s Executive of the Year and brought new legitimacy to the Raider brass. If McKenzie were on the market there would be teams lining out the door to interview him with his current resume and Mark Davis knows that.
2017 was a disaster the brass clearly did not see coming. In some ways, Reggie McKenzie prepared for it. After Sean Smith and David Amerson signed big contracts, McKenzie was able to escape with no dead money this year. He was able to essentially swap Crabtree for Green Bay veteran Jordy Nelson without cap hits. Plus, he slowly traded dispensable players for late picks. His real work, however, has come on the biggest contract in Raider history. McKenzie inked Derek Carr’s $40 Million guaranteed and worth $125 Million overall, Carr is something of a bargain.
With three Pro Bowls, he has two more than Kirk Cousins would just sign for $84 Million guaranteed. Khalil Mack is due next and likely Amari Cooper after that. However, McKenzie prepared the roster to pay the best players and move on from those who do not work out. All this as the Raiders prepare to move on from Oakland to Las Vegas; Mark Davis would be a fool to move on from him.