Reggie McKenzie was criticized when the Oakland Raiders didn’t fight to retain Jared Veldheer, a talented left tackle who might have been the best player on a barren roster.
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Now the Raiders’ general manager has shed some light onto why the team didn’t try to re-sign Veldheer, who eventually signed a multiyear deal with the Arizona Cardinals. Vic Tarfur of the Bay Area News Group asked McKenzie if the botched signing of offensive tackle Rodger Saffold was a setback that prevented the Raiders from pursuing other options in the first day of free agency.
McKenzie’s answer pointed back to Veldheer.
“No,” McKenzie said. “It really wasn’t a setback. … The setback was the one that got away from us. Losing Veldheer was a blow to me. He didn’t want to come back. It wasn’t about finances.
“The kid didn’t want to play for the Raiders anymore, and I struggled with that.”
McKenzie added that defensive end Lamarr Houston — another dynamic player who fled as a free agent — was “in the same boat” as Veldheer, though Houston “was a little more sincere about wanting to come back.”
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Houston told McKenzie he wanted to sign with the Chicago Bears (which he did for $35 million over five years) because they were more settled at the quarterback position.
“In the end, it’s the player’s decision,” McKenzie said.
Letting homegrown players in their prime walk out the door is never smart business, but McKenzie makes it sound like he didn’t have much of a choice. Why that would be the case is what should be most troubling for the organization.
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