Raiders open wallet to lure top assistants

ALAMEDA — The Raiders have been linked to some notable coaching names since naming Jack Del Rio head coach.

After listening to Del Rio, Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie Friday afternoon, one key ingredient in luring guys like Mike Smith and Vic Fangio to Oakland appears to be in the pantry: good salaries.

Raiders owner Mark Davis said:

“I let Jack know that he will have all the resources he needs to do that.”

Mike Tice, formerly the offensive line coach of the Atlanta Falcons, reportedly asked for his release from the Falcons to join Del Rio and the Raiders. Tice worked hard to keep Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan upright despite a series of injuries to blockers.

Smith and Marc Trestman are two of the biggest names rumored in conjunction with Del Rio’s arrival. And Del Rio said Friday that there are others:

“We’re working on a list and there’s a group of people that we’re interested in, and I’d really prefer not to share Raider business with everybody out there that we’re competing against. But I can assure you that we have a very strong group of people that are excited about coming here and joining this organization, and we’re just going to work through that list and kind of take care of business as we can. But we’re not going to get into going through a list of who that might be.”

Del Rio, when asked whether financial flexibility in hiring top coaches influenced his decision to come to the Raiders, added:

“It was important to understand that there would be structure in place that would allow financial commitment that would allow us to get some of the top talent, and Mark has indicated that is the case. So that was obviously a nice piece of this, a big part of it.”

The Raiders are putting their money where their mouth is, or at least where they want their NFL standing to be. Currently, there is no limit on the amount of money a team can spend on coaches, unlike the salary cap as it relates to the active roster.

The roster, though, is another thing.

Oakland has had one very good draft and one pretty good draft over the last two seasons. McKenzie has structured contracts so that holding onto players he’s drafted won’t be an issue.

But there are still some holes, putting things mildly. The Raiders have next to nothing at wide receiver, though there is some promise with one or two younger receivers. But promise is where it stops.

The Raiders also have a truckload of money they’ll be able to —and most likely need to — unload in free agency. CBA rules provide that a team use just under 88 percent of the salary cap over a four-year period, the most recent ending in 2016 and the next in 2020.

Bringing in other respected coaches may help reel in priority free agents, though the money will need to be there for them, too.

Too many chiefs in one organization — a fear that has to be present when bringing in so many people with head coaching experience — is the potential drawback to adding guys like Trestman and Smith all at the same time.

But Del Rio’s demeanor, and the fact that these men are all professionals who have been around the NFL for years, should be able to mitigate that factor. Ideally, anyway.

On creating a good environment for the Raiders’ young quarterback Derek Carr, McKenzie said:

“That’s what we talked about when we talked about getting these lists of assistant coaches together. When you surround yourself with a great staff, and that’s what we talked about thoroughly, that’s going to help. And also the players that you continue to bring in – playmakers on the outside, protection, the defense, the run game, all of that. We talked about every aspect to try to help surround Derek with whatever we have to improve and win.”


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.