ALAMEDA – The Raiders did their homework on Richie Incognito before signing the interior offensive lineman on Tuesday morning. Oakland's general manager Mike Mayock spoke with several position coaches and front-office folks who have worked with him.
The Raiders had 10 people surrounding his May 6 workout in Alameda. They spoke to the NFL about possible discipline from two 2018 incidents that led to police being called.
They weighed pros and cons, and decided to offer the talented soon-to-be 36-year-old a chance to compete for a starting spot. That started during Tuesday’s OTA session, where he was thrown into the first unit right away.
“We have done a one-year, prove-it deal with him and that means both on and off the field,” Mayock said Tuesday. “There are some expectations he has to meet in both areas. He turns 36 in July. We think he’s going to be a good football player and allow himself to compete for the left guard job.
“I feel comfortable that he’s going to compete on the field and wants to compete off the field. We’re going to provide the infrastructure for him. It’s a two-way street. We have to help him help himself.”
Incognito has had several off-field problems, most notably his involvement in a well-publicized bullying scandal while with the Miami Dolphins. More recently, he was convicted of disorderly conduct stemming from an Aug. 2018 incident at an Arizona funeral home shortly after his father’s death. He was also reportedly taken to a mental health hospital after making threats in a Florida gym in May 2018.
The disorderly conduct conviction could lead to a suspension, though Mayock said that outcome remains uncertain.
“There’s a chance there could be league discipline,” Mayock said. “We don’t know what it will be, but it’s a one-year minimum prove-it deal, and we feel that he’s incentivized properly to stay straight. We can’t control what the NFL will do.”
The Raiders can, and will, set up a support system to help Incognito if he needs it. The team’s player engagement department will be involved, and he’s set to see their clinician on Wednesday.
Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden understand this signing will be controversial for some, and contrasts recent statements they made after the NFL draft about brining in higher-character players.
“It’s a fair question,” Mayock said. “Both Jon and I have talked a lot about foundation. We have reinforced that with our draft. At the end of the day, you can’t have all Boy Scouts. You have to do your homework in each individual case. We’ve done our homework. We’ve talked to an awful lot of people. We talked to Richie and told him what we expect on and off the field and we’ll expect him to adhere to that. … The infrastructure will be here for him to use.”
Bringing a 30-something on a one-year deal is a far different commitment than using a high draft pick on young players hoping to form a foundation of success as the team transitions to Las Vegas in 2020.
How it impacts the 2019 locker room is yet to be determined. Many know Incognito as a good teammate despite his issues in Miami. His new teammates speaking publicly Tuesday were fine with the addition, which could help up front. He’s in great physical shape after a year away from football, and sources say the Raiders were impressed by his mental state while meeting with him.
Taking a flier on someone like this, who could help the 2019 Raiders even at his advanced age, was deemed worth the risk. It’s one the Raiders will stand behind confidently after the research done before making the move.
“We’re all going to take ownership with Richie,” Mayock said. “Jon and I both talked about that, and we agree that a guy at this age, on a one-year deal, we’re all-in.”