If Reggie McKenzie was indeed the person who pulled the trigger, it's hard to blame him for deciding against letting Hue Jackson remain as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. After all, Jackson made the trade for Carson Palmer that severely hampers McKenzie's ability to shape the team in his own (Raider) image.
Now as McKenzie surveys the situation, he has three choices in terms of how to prepare the team for next year and seasons to come:
- Go for broke in an attempt to prevail in what should be a wide open AFC West with veteran players.
- Scrap everything and rebuild the team.
- A combination of Nos. 1 and 2 in a sense, with McKenzie building around a core of current Raiders he likes with both veterans and younger players (including a heavy dose of undrafted free agents and waiver wire pickups).
McKenzie had this to say about the Palmer trade at today's press conference in Alameda:
Number one, as a personnel guy I love my picks. Number one I love more: I love good players. Bringing in Carson at the time the Raiders brought him in, to me, as a player, that's a good move. You have to get players that can help you win games. Now did the position or the situation present itself favorably for Cincinnati? Absolutely. But you do what you have to do. That's just the way it is and the cost of doing business. You're trying to help your team win.
He followed by saying, "Carson Palmer is a good quarterback. Period." However, in the days of quarterbacks aspiring to the title of "elite," what does McKenzie's vote of confidence mean? Hard to say, but if McKenzie's going to recoup some of those picks that were traded away or otherwise squandered in recent years, here are a couple options...
Trade Carson Palmer
Since Jackson was the only "GM" who would've ever traded a first round pick and a second rounder for Palmer, there's no way the Raiders would get back anything close to that kind of haul. But if McKenzie isn't Palmer's biggest fan and/or he prefers Jason Campbell, perhaps he'd shop Palmer (who's owed $5 million guaranteed in 2012 and would stand to make $12.5 million for the 2012 season) to a team like that could use a QB upgrade like the Jets, Redskins or Seahawks.
Trade Darren McFadden
His value's never been lower. But his Lisfranc injury reportedly won't require surgery and, even though he missed the season's last nine games, McFadden probably would've been ready for the playoffs. When healthy he's one of the most dynamic players in the league at any position, and with a contract that's set to pay him a little less than $6 million per season for the next two years (which is over $1 million less than the Raiders would have to pay if they franchise Michael Bush), it might be worth it for a contending team with a weak rushing attack to gamble on McFadden ... like the Lions, Packers, Giants, Jets and Patriots (a gamble like this just sounds like a Bill Belichick move, doesn't it?).
Do either of those options appear likely? Probably not, since trades are difficult to pull off in the NFL and draft picks are valued so highly. But McKenzie seemed pretty comfortable in his introductory presser with the decision to axe Jackson, and judging on his demeanor he seems poised to continue the Raiders' tradition of following bold moves with bolder moves.
The problem the Raiders face is McKenzie is hardly the only personnel guy who loves his picks. In fact, no other team than the Raiders has been so eager to trade their picks away -- not just in the Palmer deal, but also in the trade with New England for Richard Seymour (who'd be another good trade candidate if he wasn't slated to make $15 million in 2012). Plus, taking Terrell Pryor in the Supplemental Draft means the Raiders lost their third round pick in 2012, their fourth round pick went to the Redskins in the Campbell trade, and their seventh rounder went to the Seahawks for Aaron Curry.
They'll get some comp picks for losing guys like Nnamdi Asomugha, Robert Gallery and Zach Miller, but we're still talking about a 2012 NFL Draft with limited potential for the Raiders -- unless they can get creative with the type of trade they usually make from the other side.