With the NFL entering the hectic part of the offseason schedule, general managers around the league are attempting to get a head start on re-signing some of the pivotal pieces from last season. For instance, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie enters the 2017 offseason with roughly $46 million available in cap space.
Teams are allowed to negotiate with players from March 7-9, but official deals cannot be reached until 4:00 P.M. EST on March 9. However, teams can reach verbal agreements on deals, as was the case with Brandon Marshall and the New York Giants.
However, McKenzie is faced with a few difficult decisions towards his roster. While many expect the bulk of the focus to be on Derek Carr and Khalil Mack, there are certain areas the Raiders need to address. The defense certainly needs upgrades in the secondary position, while the pillar of any offense is the relationship between the quarterback and the offensive line.
The Raiders boasted perhaps the best offensive line in the NFL last season, which guided their resurgence and the phenomenal play of Carr. It appears as though McKenzie is attempting to quickly re-sign a key piece on the offensive line, via Vic Tafur of the S.F. Chronicle:
— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) March 8, 2017
Menelik Watson was one of the five starting offensive lineman, which altogether were the highest paid in the NFL. Alongside Donald Penn, Rodney Hudson, Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson, opposing defenses had a difficult time, while Carr was sacked a league-low amount of times.
The situation took a turn for the worse when fellow AFC-West rival Denver Broncos stated they were interested in him, turning into a potential double negative if they were to let Watson go.
He appeared in 10 games last season, starting in five contests. Watson has yet to appear in a full season since the Raiders drafted him in 2013, which brings up concerns as to why McKenzie was hesitant from the get go.
A calf and groin injury sidelined him for much of the first half of the season, with a rough start to the regular season. Austin Howard and Vadal Alexander also showed glimpses of strong play last season, during stints where the starting five linemen weren’t available.
With the opening deadline to start signing players set for tomorrow, fans should get an accurate depiction of which way McKenzie is leaning once Thursday comes.