The Oakland Raiders elected not to place the franchise tag on left tackle Jared Veldheer this offseason. That decision ultimately led to Veldheer leaving in free agency and signing with the Arizona Cardinals.
It left the Raiders in search of a new left tackle on the free agent market. After a failed attempt to sign Rodger Saffold due to a failed physical, the Raiders signed Donald Penn to take over in protecting quarterback Matt Schaub’s blind side.
However, McKenzie doesn’t view the failed signing of Saffold as a setback. It was Veldheer bolting the Bay Area that sticks with him.
“No, “McKenzie said of Saffold, via Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. “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 is right about the finances. The Raiders had plenty of cap room to open the offseason and have spent liberally on the offensive line with the additions of Penn and Austin Howard to their front. The Raiders still could have slapped the franchise tag to keep Veldheer around, regardless of whether he wanted to play for Oakland or not.
McKenzie said the same applied to defensive end Lamarr Houston.
“In the end, it’s the player’s decision,” McKenzie said.
Penn is expected to fill the hole at left tackle with Menelik Watson at right tackle. Howard is expected to move inside to guard.