By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Monday, March 26th, 2012 at 4:00 pm in Oakland Raiders.
A transcript of Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie’s conference call with Bay Area media after the Raiders were awarded three compensatory selections in this year’s NFL draft:
What do you guys want? Yes. We’re not here to talk about my new picks, are we?
Q: Said you didn’t understand the formula, but is that what you expected, or did you not have any idea?
McKenzie: Let me tell you something. Whatever the formula is, I love this formula. I love it. I thought I would possibly get a three, a high one for Nnamdi, and the others, obviously, this is better than what I expected. So I’m extremely excited about the compensatory picks that the league has afforded the Raiders. Hopefully we can make due and have some good picks from this.
Q: Is a No.3 pick in your eyes a potential starter?
McKenzie: Yes. The No. 3 pick, the No. 4 pick, honestly, guys, when you set the board, you try to sete it to where you can have some possible starters through the fifth round. If you get lucky with a college free agent, seventh round, I’ve been fortunate to have some good fortune with latter picks in my 18-year career. I’m not going to just limit it to the third round. Ok, you’ve got a third so you’ve go tone opportunity to get a starter. I don’t want to go into this draft like that. I want to get some good players that we can try and get as many possible starters as possible. Whether they’re first-year starters, second or third year. I want to get to get some guys that got the potential to be starters. Don’t tie me down just to the third round.
Q: Coming into offseason, knowing you were going to get comp picks, did that any way change your approach to free agency?
McKenzie: No, it really didn’t. It really did not. I’m trying to build a team, so the more the merrier. If I see a possible free agent that we feel like, man we can do this, and this deal is pretty good. I’m going to do it in free agency, regardless of what we have in the draft. But that’s not going to minimize what I do in the draft, even if I sign an unrestricted free agent offensive lineman. That’s not going to say, I’m not going to draft one. I don’t look at it like that. I’m still looking for great backups who can become starters at every position. So I need a lot more picks than what I have now and some more free agent moves. The only thing I wish I had more of was NFL money and NFL cap. That’s what I wish I had more of.
Q: What do you do from here going forward in regards to clearing more space to add pieces to puzzle?
McKenzie: Not a whole lot this year. I think the bulk of it has been done. Now it’s just, you try to wait it out and see who the best fit for these 53 guys in the long run to make this team and then try to figure out, at this point its going to be production and talent. It’s not about money, money, money, as far as the comings and goings of players . . . the goings, mainly.
Q: Is the amount of picks you go into this draft with or is there a chance of trading existing players for picks?
McKenzie: that could be possible. I never close the door on trades. I really don’t. That door is always open, and so to answer your question, yes that could be a possibility.
Q: Overall how deep do you think this draft is and do you think at end of 3rd round could still land you a talented player?
McKenzie: I think there’s very good players in the middle rounds. So, from a standpoint of depth, I think it’s there. I don’t’ know as far as certain positions in the first two rounds it may not be as deep at certain spots, but for the most part there’s some good players throughout the draft.
Q: Throughout years at Green Bay , how many years did you spend on pro personnel, how much in college with draft, and how much doing both?
McKenzie: I did both a lot of times. My first year there, I began in pro personnel, so that was the brunt of my work. But when the scouting meetings started, I was heavily involved, in bringing guys in for visits, and from watching film in the meetings with the coaching, and putting the board together. So I was a part of that process early. I probably didn’t get started doing college scouting as far as going on the road and being a part of the pre-draft, the pre-combine scouting meetings until after about seven years. The last 10, 12 years I was part of that. The last 12 years, exactly. So that’s different. In saying that. I’ve always been involved in both. Always oversaw all the pro, from a free agent standpoint, and just the evaluation of my own team, which is I think is highly important, so it’s been a process, now. I’ve done this for quite some time but this is my show now so it’s going to be fun.
Q: Stepped in to new role this year, has it been frustrating spending with cap limitations and haven’t been able to go out sign free agents you wanted to get?
McKenzie: It’s not frustrating, it really isn’t. But you always like to have a comfort level, and to me, having cap, having cash, it gives you a comfort. So it’s teaching me how to manage money so to speak. This is good. This is good for me, learning how to deal on the fly with certain adverse situations. I think, initially now, we’re able to handle it so far. Hopefully, what I don’t want to do is allow this to get us in the end, but I always want to be in position, if we need to add a quality player, for a certain, and we feel it works out, financially, cap-wise, then sure, I want to be in position to make a move. And that’s my whole outlook, when we had to make certain cuts, we do it, with a future plan that we had. So far, it’s working accordingly.
Q: Still looking to add CB Pat Lee?
Q: Said starting outside linebacker priority, speaking free agency or in draft?
McKenzie: Hey, let me tell you something. I will take it any way I can get it. If I can get it in free agency. In free agency, it has to work out contractually. If it don’t work out, I’m not tying my hands down to either/or. But still, regardless, I’m going to use the draft the best available player, and if it’s at position that we’re strong, so be it. If we think that’s the best guy, it’s the difference between adding solid starters and difference-makers. If I have a chance to get a difference-maker, we’re going to get ‘em. Whether it’s the draft, it’s hard to sign difference-makers if you don’t have money. If we have the potential to get some solid starters in free agency, still, I’m going to do it.
Q: The releases made so far, were those about production or lack of or was it about cap situation?
McKenzie: A little bit of both. When you talk about production versus a salary, in this business, once you get into the NFL, let’s fact it, guys, the contract and production, all of that goes hand in hand. If something is not matching, or it’s kind of out of whack, you’re going to have to be forced to make a decision. That’s what I was coming up to. It was not just all just either/or. If the production’s not there, but the guys’ making the minimum, then so be it, you can use this guy as the backup because of the contract. But when the thing doesn’t work out, contractually and production, you gotta be forced to evaluate. That’s after every season, we’re all up against that, gotta be evaluated. That’s where I made my decisions. It wasn’t, well, you’re costing too much money you’ve got to go, no, if the guy was highly productive and we could make it work, we’ll try to make it work, financially, but if not we’re going to have to make certain decisions and some tough decisions, which we did.’
Q: As you build, do you envision this team being stronger this year or take it 2-3 years to get your plan in place?
McKenzie: Honestly, I envision it being stronger.
Q: Tight end to position, elected to let Kevin Boss go, could you be comfortable with three TEs on roster or looking adding more?
McKenzie: I’m comfortable with it, but yes, I do want to continue to add. I’m not just going to, at any position really, just say, OK, I’m good there and I’m not going to add a guy. I’d like to add another guy there to compete.
Q: Is this a good draft for LBs as opposed to years past? A deep draft?
McKenzie: There are some good linebackers. Is it deep? I wouldn’t say that, but there are some good linebackers in this draft.
Q: How much does Peyton Manning being in Denver change the dynamics of the division, and to the extent that even in personnel evaluation and decision-making you might have an eye to that?
McKenzie: You know, the one thing I can say is I have a great admiration for Peyton. Now, do we have to put in a game plan for defending Peyton rather than Tebow? Absolutely. Guys, face it. This guy in the division, if he’s healthy and hitting on all cylinders physically, he’s going to be a good football player in our division. We’re going to have to find ways to slow him down. Yeah, I mean, the coaching staff, that’s going to be a challenge. And players that you add, do we have to make sure as far as cornerbacks are they going to have to be on their Ps and Qs on how they cover guys and timing and all that, absolutely. But are we going to be scared of him? Absolutely not.