INDIANAPOLIS -- In recent years, it has been an open secret that the Oakland Raiders have not been a top destination for free agents.
Oakland has been known as a place where an aging free agent could get one last payday by a team desperate for a quick fix. New coach Jack Del Rio wants to change that.
Del Rio said there is a good foundation already with solid players, starting, of course, with quarterback Derek Carr and outside linebacker Khalil Mack. The Raiders could have more than $60 million in salary cap room, and Del Rio said he expects the Raiders to be able to improve in free agency by spending the extra money.
"There's a freshness going on," Del Rio said Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine. "Those are things I talked about in the interview process that were important and they've been followed up with actual commitment of capital, which I'm excited about. So as you go into this phase of free agency and acquiring players, we have cap space and we have cash and we have a new staff full of teachers and we have a good young quarterback and we have a good young man off the edge in Khalil Mack and we've got a good left tackle, we've got corners. The things that we need to be started, we have. We're going to start adding good quality people that are fired up to be part of the Raiders. So I'm excited about that part of that process that we're just getting in to."
It is clear Del Rio, an East Bay native, is fired up by the renovations the team is adding to the facility, which has been known as one of the most meager in the NFL. Improved fields, weight room and a steam room are among the highlights of the renovations that the Raiders were already planning, but Del Rio pushed hard for it once being hired.
Some other highlights from Del Rio's media session:
Del Rio said he thinks D.J. Hayden has "special [cornerback] feet." However, Del Rio said the key for the No. 12 overall draft pick in 2013 is staying healthy. Consistency has also been an early-career issue for Hayden.
The Raiders' yearly goal will be simple: win the AFC West and go from there, said the Raiders' coach.
Del Rio is excited that Rod Woodson is on staff as assistant defensive backs coach. He said Woodson's honor as a Pro Football hall of Fame cornerback will initially help with players, but playing history doesn't help in coaching.
The Raiders' coach reiterated that the team has to find out if Maurice Jones-Drew can regain his explosiveness. Jones-Drew -- who starred for Del Rio in Jacksonville -- had just 96 yards last season. While there is a history, it may be a surprise if Jones-Drew is on the roster in September, in my opinion.
Del Rio was asked about Terrance Knighton, who played for him in both Jacksonville and Denver. Knighton is a free agent and has expressed interest reuniting with Del Rio. Of course, Del Rio can't tamper by saying too much about his interest in Knighton. But it is clear Del Rio thinks Knighton is a fine player. I wouldn't be shocked at all to see him wearing Silver and Black this season.