Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie looks up from the sideline prior to a NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, December 4, 2016 in Oakland. The Raiders won the game 38-24. (Paul Jasienski via AP)
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer
OAKLAND, Calif — In a season where the Raiders made the playoffs for the first time since 2002, the league recognized the man that helped lead the turn around when Oakland General Manager Reggie McKenzie was named the NFL’s Executive of the Year for 2016 Thursday morning.
The news was first reported by Associated Press.
The award is presented by the Pro Football Writers of America, who vote among themselves to determine the league’s top executive.
McKenzie oversaw a Raiders team that finished 12-4 and clinch a wild card berth. The Raiders lost to the Houston Texans 27-14 on Wild Card Weekend.
McKenzie’s fingerprints are all over this team, adding key free agents in Pro Bowlers safety Reggie Nelson and left guard Kelechi Osemele, to go along with edge rusher Bruce Irvin that spearheaded a 9-2 start for the Silver and Black this season.
Sprinkle in wide receiver Michael Crabtree, left tackle Donald Penn, and right guard Gabe Jackson, McKenzie has brought stability to a franchise that were in an abyss since their last Super Bowl appearance, also in 2002.
But where McKenzie has really flourished for the Raiders has been in the draft room, building Oakland’s strong foundation starting in 2014 and 2015 where McKenzie drafted defensive linchpin Khalil Mack, franchise quarterback Derek Carr, game-breaking wide receiver Amari Cooper, and defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr.
Carr was named the AFC West Offensive Player of the Year, as voted by four reporters who cover the AFC West for ESPN.com on Friday.
Mack and Osemele were named to the All-NFL team (voted by the AP), while safety Karl Joseph was named to the All-Rookie team.
McKenzie will have his work cut out for him as Mack and Carr will be in line for big extensions once their rookie deals expire. The team has the club option on Mack in 2018, but Carr’s deal ends after the 2017.
And with Oakland having filed for relocation to Las Vegas on Thursday, McKenzie’s will need to work hard to keep the nucleus of the franchise in tact.
But when you have $46.6M in salary cap space, the time to get both Carr and Mack locked up long term should be this offseason.
For now, McKenzie can take a second to enjoy being named executive of the year but there is more work to be done for the Silver and Black.