Reggie McKenzie on Terrelle Pryor’s short-term future, DeSean Jackson, Veldheer’s negotiations and much more
Posted on March 24, 2014 by Tim Kawakami ORLANDO–Just had a long talk with Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie about several topics, the most newsworthy being his suggestion that Terrelle Pryor, at his own request, could be released or traded soon.
McKenzie said that Pryor’s agent has told the team that he badly wants to be a starting quarterback and McKenzie didn’t deny that the Raiders don’t have that spot open and that it might be best for both sides if this is resolved soon.
I also spoke to Raiders owner Mark Davis about stadium issues and many team issues and that transcript will be up in a bit…
—-REGGIE McKENZIE gaggle transcript/
-Q: How do you think things have gone for you this off-season with so much cap space? Do you feel you’ve accomplished what you wanted to?
-McKENZIE: It didn’t go 100%. But I got some things answered, put it that way. Getting the addition of some key position players, depth, leadership… some of those things went well.
I don’t like losing my own players, but it happened. So I moved on.
-Q: What’s the key question you answered?
-McKENZIE: Got a veteran quarterback with some production in the past. So that was important.
Leadership at a lot of positions, those two were key.
-Q: Is there a concern that almost everybody you signed is between 29 and 30 years old? Do you feel like the guys you signed can produce and lead?
-McKENZIE: Yes. Yes. You look at the tape, when you mention age, if they look like they should be retiring soon, I wouldn’t have brought them in.
-Q: Is it accurate that Schaub’s deal has been re-structured?
-Q: Is that a sign that you guys are looking at him as more than a one-year thing? This is a two-year or three-year commitment?
-McKENZIE: Yeah, we’re not looking for a one-year deal with him, no, not at all, that wasn’t the purpose.
-Q: He’s absolutely the starting quarterback?
-McKENZIE: Well, that’s what we brought him in for. But you never know.
-Q: Does signing Schaub mean it’s less likely that you take a quarterback with your first-round pick?
-McKENZIE: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. We’re still going to continue to evaluate and draft hopefully some big-time players, especially with that first pick.
We’re going to get the best player, if it happens to be a quarterback, so be it. We’re not going to reach around and draft by position. We’re not going to do that.
-Q: The perception is that you guys like Derek Carr a lot. Is that true?
-McKENZIE: I’m not going to tell who we like. We like a lot of players. (Smiles.)
-Q: Do you still have interest in adding more free agents?
-McKENZIE: Yes. We’re not done.
-Q: DeSean Jackson’s name has been connected to the Raiders. Do you have any interest in him if he’s released or available?
-McKENZIE: I’m not going to tell you.
-Q: Have you made a phone call regarding Jackson?
-McKENZIE: I’m not going to tell you that, either.
-Q: Does that kind of player–a big-money, big-name player–would that fit your model?
-McKENZIE: As long as he’s a really good player that we think is really going to elevate our team. I mean, big money, name is not the major issue. It’s what else he can bring to the table.
Production is going to be a lot; but there’s many other characteristics that fall into that.
-Q: You’ve put a big emphasis on chemistry guys…
-McKENZIE: Yeah, absolutely.
-Q: How much would a reputation be a problem for you?
-McKENZIE: That’s what you’ve got to sit down and figure that out, you know? Reputation is what you’ve done in the past.
-Q: How much of a factor was leadership when you signed Justin Tuck?
-McKENZIE: It meant a lot. It was one of the reasons we got him on the board because he is a leader. He brings a lot to the locker room.
-Q: Does his age concern you?
-McKENZIE: No. Not at all.
-Q: Was there a commonality to your talks with your own guys who left?
-McKENZIE: As it turned out, they didn’t want to come back. So that’s nothing I can control. Unless you way over pay. And that’s not what we want to do.
-Q: Who do you consider your foundation players now?
-McKENZIE: I think we added some. But the Marcel Reeces on this squad now… are kind of like the foundation piece. We’re growing into that–some of these receivers are starting to grow, we’ve got a young receiving corps, we’ve got a very young tight end corps…
I think some of the offensive linemen, like Wisniewski is one of those foundation pieces.
Defensively, we’ve been mixing and matching all over the place. But we added linebackers last year, we lost a lot of defensive linemen this year. So it’s one of those situations, that’s why we had to bring in some veteran players, you know?
We lost so many… in the two years that I’ve been here we’ve lost so many senior players, from the back end, from Huff to Rolando, all these guys who were supposed to be your leaders, Seymour, Tommy Kelly, all those guys, Shaughnessy… those guys are gone on defense.
You bring in Charles Woodson to help stabilize that… Tarell Brown with his experience. And Tyvon will be able to play this year, hopefully healthy, and he’s one of those guys that on defense can help stabilize some of that.
There’s a lot of moving parts with this defense. So hopefully we’ve got the right character guys that can create a real good chemistry fast.
-Q: You’ve signed veterans to shorter-term deals, does that allow fit with the strategy of building mostly through the draft and by the time those draft choices are moving up, maybe in 2015 and 2016?
-McKENZIE: That’s the plan. That’s the plan.
-Q: What are you expecting out of D.J. Hayden and Menelik Watson? Do you need to see them become established starter at some point this season?
-McKENZIE: Yes, that’s what we would like. No. 1 we would like for them to be healthy this season and then show their skills, show their skills. They’ll get coached up during this off-season and hopefully they’ll be healthy and ready to go… and then play.
-Q: Was your thinking on the Veldheer talks maybe that you could lose him because you had Menelik Watson coming up at left tackle?
-McKENZIE: No, oh no. Guys, I didn’t let Veldheer go. I really wanted to keep him. Really did.
But it was his decision to go.
-Q: When I asked Mark Davis about the Saffold contract and voiding, he said it was the doctors’ decision and maybe it was a good thing that it was found.
-McKENZIE: The bottom line is there was something found and there was nothing said prior to us finding it. So it is an issue and the doctors gave us their thoughts and we said OK.
-Q: Was there some concern that you guys have so many injured players and you don’t want to keep adding hurt players?
-McKENZIE: I never want to just add a whole bunch of injured guys. When you have some injured guys on the roster, it gets you apprehensive a little it. But you’ve got to weigh each injury and what you’re putting into it.
But no, it didn’t scare me half to death because ‘we’ve got this guy injured, we’ve got this guy injured.’… No.
But you’ve got that in the back of your mind and you learn from it and you say OK.
-Q: Do you understand how strange it looks for you guys to drop him and the Rams turn around and immediately sign him?
-McKENZIE: No, the Rams had him. They had him, so they know him better than anybody, you know what I’m saying? That’s one of the deals where they felt like hey, he came back to us.
It’s like if somebody would’ve failed Veldheer on something that was bad and he wanted to come back, we knew all about it, we did it, we did the surgery, we did this… When you know your guys, that’s a better deal.
-Q: With as much cap space as you had, why not just franchise-tag Veldheer?
-McKENZIE: No, we felt like we could sign him; he indicated to us he wanted to be here. So we would pay whatever the market was, that’s what we told him. Whatever the market was.
-Q: There was a hiccup in the talks, at least from their perspective.
-McKENZIE: I don’t know about their perspective. All I know is from my perspective.
-Q: Veldheer said there was a lack of urgency from the Raiders.
-McKENZIE: No, there was negotiation that they had a number that was not close to where we were. That’s how it started. And there was no hiccup. It was just the way they negotiated.
And he’s in his first negotiation, so it was a little different.
-Q: Was the Lamarr Houston situation similar? Is that why you didn’t franchise-tag him, either?
-McKENZIE: We felt like we could sign him. He wanted to be here and all of that. When you’re talking about franchise numbers, you’re talking about trying really rent a guy for a year, if they really didn’t want to be here.
What kind of number are they going to be satisfied with, if they were?
-Q: But you’d still have the player. And you had all the cap space.
-McKENZIE: That doesn’t mean that’s what you do. Just tag the guy and just be done with it and don’t talk to him about… I mean, guys want long-term deals. Players want that. So we felt like we were going to get both of those guys long-term guys.
-Q: Do you still feel like you need to add specific positions? A veteran interior defensive lineman or cornerback?
-McKENZIE: No, I think we’ve got enough veterans at certain spots. Now it’s just adding some good players, whether veteran or young; if there’s somebody out there, we’ll add him.
-Q: Is it likely you’ll be drafting a QB in the first few rounds?
-McKENZIE: Maybe. (Laughs.)
-Q: Do you need a young QB?
-McKENZIE: We found a pretty good one last year. So…
-Q: What’s Terrelle Pryor’s future with this team?
-McKENZIE: You know what? Terrelle wants to start so bad. So we’re going to… I’ll visit with him and we’ll talk to him and we’ll move on from there.
So we’ll see in the next week or so how he feels about his future and just starting. That’s what he wants to do. So I’m going to talk to him.
-Q: So it might be better for him to leave the organization? He seems to be moving down the depth chart.
-McKENZIE: Any time when you sign a veteran player like that, a guy that really wants to start… it’s going to hit him. So that’s what I want to talk to him about.
-Q: Has Pryor asked to be released or traded?
-McKENZIE: Well, he has talked to his agent about it. He hasn’t talked to me about it.
-Q: Has his agent mentioned it to you?
-McKENZIE: He’s mentioned it to me. So, we’ll see about that.
-Q: Why did you want Schaub No. 1 among the QBs?
-McKENZIE: We liked him–we liked what we saw on tape, bottom line. He’s done it, he’s had production, he’s a good solid quarterback and we felt like we would be a better team if we would have a guy like that.
So an opportunity presented itself, I made the trade.
-Q: Is there any concern about what happened to him last year, any fear about his confidence?
-McKENZIE: No, no fear of that.
-Q: How sure are you that this team will be better in 2014 than it was last year?
-McKENZIE: Oh, you can never be sure. I mean, let’s hope. Let’s hope.
-Q: Did you see what Richie Incognito said about him being a great fit with the Raiders?
-McKENZIE: I’ve heard about it.
-Q: What do you think about that?
-McKENZIE: (Smiles and looks at everybody one at at time without saying a word.)
-Q: Are you interested in Incognito?
-McKENZIE: (Once again smiles and says nothing.)