The Raiders have signed general manager Reggie McKenzie to a four-year contract extension that will keep him with the team through the end of the 2021 draft, owner Mark Davis announced Friday night. McKenzie is the third GM this week to receive a four-year extension, joining the Seahawks’ John Schneider and the Texans’ Rick Smith.
“Reggie’s contract was up at the end of this year, and we felt was time to reward him for the job that he has done,” said Davis.
The 53-year-old McKenzie, who was an NFL linebacker (including a stint with the Los Angeles Raiders from 1985-88) before serving as the longtime director of player personnel in Green Bay, took the reins as Oakland’s GM in 2012. While McKenzie inherited a team that finished a respectable 8-8 the previous season, its cap situation was nightmarish and its first draft pick wasn’t until the third round, 95th overall. Thanks in part to those factors, and McKenzie’s ill-advised choice to hire Dennis Allen as the Raiders’ head coach, the club spiraled to 4-12 in the executive’s first season at the helm.
McKenzie then had a full complement of draft picks in 2013, though the 10-player class hasn’t produced any high-impact players aside from sixth-round running back Latavius Murray. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder debuted in 2014 and has combined for 1,490 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, also adding 58 receptions.
McKenzie’s drafts truly began bearing fruit in 2014 and 2015, with both classes coming after bottom-of-the-barrel seasons. The Raiders landed defensive end Khalil Mack, among the league’s premier players on either side of the ball, with the fifth selection in 2014 before grabbing quarterback Derek Carr (No. 36) and guard Gabe Jackson (No. 81) in the second and third rounds. Mack totaled a whopping 15 sacks, second only to Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, last season. Carr tossed 32 touchdowns against 13 interceptions and now looks like Oakland’s first true solution under center since the Rich Gannon era. Jackson, meanwhile, has started in 28 of 29 appearances and ranked 13th among 81 qualified guards at Pro Football Focus for his work in 2015.
McKenzie added to those three core players in last year’s draft, most notably with first-round receiver Amari Cooper (No. 4 overall). The ex-Alabama star hauled in 72 passes for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie, and it appears he and Carr will combine to form one of the league’s most threatening duos through the air for the foreseeable future.
With the help of those integral cogs – not to mention McKenzie’s second head coaching hire, Jack Del Rio, and pickups like cornerback David Amerson (waivers), receiver Michael Crabtree (free agency), punter Marquette King (undrafted free agency) and defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. (second round, 2015) – the McKenzie-built Raiders finally made progress in the win column last season. On the heels of a 7-9 showing, the Raiders’ best since 2011, McKenzie took advantage of a great cap situation and signed guard Kelechi Osemele, linebacker Bruce Irvin, cornerback Sean Smith and safety Reggie Nelson to sizable deals in free agency. He also re-signed stalwart left tackle Donald Penn and picked up seven more players via the draft, with first-round safety Karl Joseph headlining the class.
Thanks to the mix of highly talented youth and established veterans McKenzie has acquired, the Raiders look as if they’ll soon break their lengthy run of futility. Oakland hasn’t posted a winning record in a season since 2002, when it won the AFC, and has gone 13 years without a playoff berth. Although the 18-46 mark the Raiders have produced under McKenzie suggests he didn’t merit an extension, the foundation he has put in place indicates otherwise.
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