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Jared Veldheer, Lamarr Houston avoid Raiders tag

With his back pressed firmly against the wall, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie opted against maintaining control of his most valuable offensive and defensive assets Monday.

Neither left tackle Jared Veldheer nor defensive lineman Lamarr Houston drew the Raiders' franchise or transition tag.

McKenzie still has until March 8 to negotiate exclusively with both players, which might help to explain the lack of urgency on Monday.

A source informed of the Raiders' thinking told NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport there was no communication with Veldheer leading up to the 4 p.m. ET deadline for franchise tags.

Had this been a talent-rich organization strapped for salary cap space, the inaction would be understandable.

As it is, though, McKenzie has a league-high $65 million to spend and a clear mandate from his owner to start winning and stop making excuses.

Just entering their primes and still improving, Veldheer and Houston sit firmly inside the top 10 on Around The League's list of the best 101 free agents this season. McKenzie needs to acquire more players of their ilk rather than setting them free to the highest bidder.

The distribution of talent at the NFL level means there isn't much difference between league-average starters and capable reserves. The key to consistent winning, then, is to identify, develop and keep high-end starters on the roster.

The Raiders accomplished the first two items on that list with Veldheer and Houston. They have the resources to pull off the third as well, but have thus far been unable or unwilling to pull the trigger.

Already charged with making over the NFL's most talent-deficient roster this offseason, McKenzie increased the difficulty factor Monday.

If he can't find a way to shift out of deconstruction mode, McKenzie won't have a roster to reconstruct in 2015.

The latest edition of the "Around The League Podcast" works through our top 101 free agents and responds to some heat from Donte Whitner.

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