After a 4-12 first season with head coach Dennis Allen, the events of Tuesday’s free agency frenzy could not have pleased the second-year general manager.
While he was unable to secure any new players, McKenzie was forced to watch as his two best free agents signed with other teams.
Linebacker Philip Wheeler signed a one-year deal with the Raiders last offseason and made the most of it as he led the team in tackles with 109, to go along with 3.0 sacks. In return, the 28-year-old linebacker got straight paid by the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday. ProFootballTalk.com reported that Wheeler signed with the Dolphins for five years for $26 million, with $13 million of that fully guaranteed.
Wheeler leaving the team gives the Raiders one less linebacker, and most likely means they have to replace two starting linebackers with Rolando McClain all but gone after last year’s outburst. Assuming McClain is also gone, that leaves only second-year linebacker Mile Burris currently on the roster.
While Wheeler was busy signing his deal with the Dolphins, defensive tackle Desmond Bryant also left the Raiders while reportedly signing with the Cleveland Browns.Bryant was largely considered the best defensive tackle in this year’s free agency class even after being arrested last month and appearing with what may be the worst mugshot in the history of the NFL.
Albert Breer of NFL Network has reported that Bryant’s deal is five years for $34 million, with $15 million guaranteed. The 27-year-old defensive tackle had four sacks and 35 quarterback hurries, fourth in the NFL, while starting only eight games.
The departure of Bryant doesn’t come at a good time after the front office chose to void veteran Richard Seymour’s contract. Tommy Kelly has long been a favorite to be released or asked to restructure his deal due to his high salary hit this upcoming season.
There’s no question that after the cuts of Michael Huff and Darrius Heyward-Bey, to go along with the departures of Wheeler and Bryant, the Raiders roster is indeed in a worst state than it was in what was a 4-12 season. With that being said, the cuts were a necessary step for McKenzie to get rid of overpriced contracts and free up some salary cap space.
Luckily for the Raiders, next month’s draft has plenty of defensive talent, now it’s up to McKenzie to find it.