OAKLAND _ It wasn’t so long ago that Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and his personnel staff began the free agency period dialing the phone.
Now they’re answering it.
“It’s good to see people call us and not always have to beg,” McKenzie said with a wide smile Saturday night at the club’s annual Commitment to Excellence award dinner at the Airport Hilton. “I think people can see what we’re doing. I think our players, they’re showing on the field, and players talk to each other. We had a handful of guys play in the Pro Bowl. It’s a strong fraternity within the NFL. Guys interact.”
The Raiders were the talk of the NFL during the opening week of free agency, striking quickly to sign offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele of the Baltimore Ravens, linebacker Bruce Irvin of the Seattle Seahawks and cornerback Sean Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The three deals could pay out a maximum of $137 million. The public comments, made exclusively to the Bay Area News Group, were McKenzie’s first since free agency began.
As for Malik Jackson, the Denver defensive end who got five years and $90 million with Denver, McKenzie hinted the Raiders had gotten the three players they wanted most.
“We targeted these guys,” McKenzie said. “We had an order of how we wanted to do it. (Jackson) was on the list, of course. He’s a good football player. But the guys we got, we’re extremely happy to have.”
Whether any of the big three actually called the Raiders first McKenzie wouldn’t say, but it’s clear the Raiders’ reputation around the league has grown. Besides going 7-9 last year, the Raiders have a nucleus of young talent that includes a potential franchise quarterback in Derek Carr and pass rusher in Khalil Mack.
Charles Woodson, the Commitment to Excellence award winner who was honored Saturday night, likes the direction the franchise is headed. Woodson retired following the season and will join ESPN as an analyst.
“You look at what’s happening in free agency right now, guys wanting to come here and play,” Woodson said. “You’ve gotot feel good about the direction. Mark Davis, Reggie, along with Jack, they’re working together to make sure this organization is what it used to be and have the respect it used to have. It’s going to be fun to watch them.”
Woodson, giving his new career a try, gave the Raiders high marks on all three signings, and noted all were in their prime.
Woodson’s takes on all three players:
Irvin: “What you need on any team is you need rush. You’ve got Khalil on one said and you can have Bruce Irvin on the other side. What you’ve also got is versatility. Both guys can play multiple positions so you can put them anywhere on the field.”
Smith: “I think he’s going to be perfect for this scheme. A long, tall corner that can go out there and press on early downs so the linebackers and D-line can focus on the run. He’s going to be a huge upgrade for the team at cornerback. A fiery guy, a guy that plays with a lot of passion.”
Osemele: “The game is won in the trenches, so you bring in another versatile lineman that’s going to be good for the team. And they’re not done yet, got a lot of money to spend and the draft is coming up. A lot of big moves to be made.”
McKenzie said indeed the Raiders are just getting started.
“This thing will probably go through the draft,” McKenzie said. “You never know when guys are ready to sign. There are still guys getting released. We’re always going to be attacking. If we see someone that can help, we’re going after him.”
— Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. will see his doctor as well as team physicians at some point in April to determine a course of action for his neck injury.
“He’s doing great, and it’s all about giving him time,” McKenzie said. “We’re in no hurry.”
— Wide receiver Rod Streater has signed a one-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs which according to ESPN could bring him $4.8 million.
Streater, who caught 60 passes for 888 yards and four touchdowns in 2014, was lot to a broken leg in 2015 and fell behind Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts and Andre Holmes on the depth chart. He was a healthy scratch in 15 of 16 games.
— J’Marcus Webb, who signed as a free agent for last year and started 16 games at right guard, is visiting with the Seattle Seahawks.