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ORLANDO, Fla. – Raiders head coach Dennis Allen might be getting tired of hearing about veteran leadership. Outsiders believed that’s all Charles Woodson was signed for in 2013. Allen rebutted, saying Woodson could still produce. Then the veteran free safety went out and made 133 tackles in 1,067 snaps.
Allen has heard the same talk about this offseason's free-agent class. This 30-plus influx, which includes Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley, Kevin Boothe, Donald Penn and Antonio Smith, should provide veteran leadership.
That part is true. Allen says it’s not the whole story.
“We’re not bringing in mascots or hood ornaments or whatever,” Allen said Sunday at the NFL owners meetings. “… A lot of people ask me about veteran leadership. Let’s not confuse things here. I want guys that can play. We’re not bringing in guys just for leadership. We went out and got guys to can still be productive and also fill a leadership role.”
The Raiders have been active this offseason. They’ve signed nine new players, re-signed four of their own and acquired quarterback Matt Schaub in trade. In that group, eight are 29 or older and seven have Super Bowl experience. Most of them are on the back end of a career, but Allen believes they all have something valuable left in the tank. They wouldn’t be Raiders if not.
The Raiders hope to pull fruit from this crop as they transition towards a team that builds primarily through the draft. That will come in time if general manager Reggie McKenzie stacks good drafts upon one another.
In the interim the Raiders had to fill holes via free agency. A lack of talent demanded it; salary cap space made it happen.
The Raiders did so without mortgaging their future – recent contracts are short term or pay-as-you-go deals – and with players they believe can step in and contribute. This season over the recent past, the Raiders had buying power to acquire players with past success and a potentially productive future. Such activity won't be standard for an Allen/McKenzie regime, but it could get them by.
“No matter what you say or do in free agency, that’s not how you build your team,” Allen said. “With so many holes to fill and cap room to go do that was certainly a good thing. It was a lot better situation than we were in the last two years. We could actually go out and do something. That was a real positive.”