Mike Mayock believed the Raiders needed to find a way to get younger on the offensive line before he ever accepted the job as the team’s general manager.
Two offseasons later, he put his plan in action.
That’s among the topics he discussed during a wide-ranging interview with his former NFL Network colleague Lindsay Rhodes on “The NFL Rhodes Show” podcast in an episode released this week.
Mayock said one of his favorite talking points as a television analyst was that you can’t let an offensive line grow old together.
“When I took the job, that was one of my biggest concerns and I even said it to Jon at the interview,” Mayock recalled. “One of the things I said was you have a quality interior offensive line, but they’re growing old together. That means change will be necessary and that’s where we are.”
Mayock led a major overhaul of what had been one of the team’s biggest strengths, trading away Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson and Trent Brown this offseason.
“I know a lot of people were like, ‘Wow, why’d they do that?’” Mayock said. “But I don’t feel like we took a step back and we wouldn’t have made the moves if we felt that.”
Salary cap concerns were a driving force behind some of the decisions, but Mayock insisted it was more about the team’s confidence in some of the younger players and a desire to get ahead of the curve on any potential decline in play for Hudson and Jackson, who are both on the wrong side of 30.
“At a certain point, the skill set is going to decline,” he said. “It’s inevitable, especially with offensive linemen. This is why there are certain teams around the league that I think are so good, because they’re consistent and when they move on from players they typically do it a year early rather than a year late.”
Mayock pointed out the trades netted the team three additional mid-round picks and saved $34 million in cap space this season. It also cleared the way for Andre James, a third-year pro the team is very high on, to step into the lineup. The Raiders also feel confident in the group of Richie Incognito, Denzelle Good and John Simpson to handle the two guard positions with established stalwart Kolton Miller at left tackle and first-round pick Alex Leatherwood on the right side.
Leatherwood will play the spot that was previously occupied by Brown. Mayock said the decision to move on from him and his massive contract was different than the situation with Hudson and Jackson.
“When healthy and available, he’s a dominant right tackle,” Mayock said. “But he was not healthy and available to us very often in two years and he was making $14 million.”
“Now we can go sign Yannick Ngakoue on the defensive side of the ball where we really need help,” he said.
Mayock insists he’s optimistic about how good the offensive line can be despite the relative lack of experience, though he’s realistic enough to know his decisions will be judged based on wins and losses.
“You can criticize all you want, and I’m talking about the world in general, but I can’t tell you how excited I am to watch our new group play next year,” he said. “We’re committed to what we’re doing and we believe in them.
“We really believe we got younger, we got more athletic and we saved a bunch of money.”
They’ll be put to the test early with matchups against Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the first two weeks of the regular season.
Other topics discussed by Mayock on the podcast included:
-On his perceived ‘reaches’ in the draft: “At the end of the day, it comes back to eventually being judged by wins and losses. A couple years down the road, people will look back and say Mayock sucked or he didn’t and that’s OK. We have to believe in our board just like every other team has to believe in theirs.”
-On the defense: “We have to get so much better. I know it, Jon knows it. We all know it. We’ve got to finish games. I’m excited to see whether or not we can generate a pass rush because we have not been disruptive on defense, we don’t take the ball away. We don’t hurry the quarterback. We have a lot of things we have to get better at and we’re very realistic about that. More than anything, I want to see if we can be disruptive on defense and that’s going to be one of our goals.”