ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has taken his fair share of criticism for some of the free agent moves he's made over the past few years.
One signing that no one disputes was the $44.5 million, five-year contract given to center Rodney Hudson in March.
The deal made the 26-year-old Hudson the highest-paid player on the Raiders' roster. With an average salary of $8.9 million, Hudson is the second highest-paid center in the NFL behind Miami's Mike Pouncey, who earns $8.95 million annually.
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Hudson has certainly proven to be worth the investment.
Through six games, he has allowed one sack while dominating both as a pass blocker and a run blocker. Hudson also made the pivotal block on San Diego free safety Jimmy Wilson that helped spring wide receiver Amari Cooper for a 52-yard touchdown in last week's win over the Chargers.
It was a play that made several national highlight shows and one that still had Hudson's teammates buzzing this week when the team gathered to watch film.
''Everybody was going crazy for him because you just see someone that big running that fast,'' Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. ''I'm happy I don't play defense. I'd rather be on this side of him than having to try and take that block on.''
A second-round pick by Kansas City in 2011, Hudson had already carved a reputation for being one of the most physical centers in the league when the Raiders reached out to him this offseason after Hudson became a free agent.
Hudson was at the top of Oakland's priority list and the two sides quickly reached an agreement. Now the Raiders front office is enjoying watching the payoff.
''Money aside, at the end of the day, do you like the player?'' McKenzie said. ''We like the player. The market dictates everything else. We just penciled him as a guy we really liked and we wanted. Once we found he was interested, we just went after it.''
Hudson wasn't the only Oakland offensive lineman making a big block downfield on Cooper's touchdown. Left tackle Donald Penn sealed off San Diego cornerback Brandon Flowers five yards beyond where Hudson leveled Wilson.
''Donald made a great block on that play, too,'' Hudson said Friday. ''It was a collective effort. A lot of people did good things. It just comes with it. I got out in space, and Amari made a great cut, too. He did a great job of setting my block up.''
The Raiders have definitely made significant strides offensively with Hudson at center. They're 18th overall and 23rd in rushing offense after finishing last in both categories a year ago.
Hudson grades out as the best pass-blocking center in the NFL, according to ProFootballFocus.com. That's helped Oakland make a smooth transition to the new schemes of offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave despite using three new starters on the offensive line.
''It's always important to take it one game at a time and not lose sight on what's now by looking in the past or the future,'' Hudson said. ''It's the players and coaches as a whole reminding each other and focusing on the game plan, the opponent and what they're trying to do.''
Notes: Safety Charles Woodson (shoulder/knee) is probable. . DL Denico Autry (concussion), defensive back TJ Carrie (shoulder), DT Justin Ellis (ankle) and CB Keith McGill (foot) are also probable. . LB Neiron Ball (knee) is out. . Chase DeLisle, a 7-year-old boy from Canada, served as coach for the day as part of a Make-A-Wish Foundation wish. DeLisle attended practice then broke the team huddle at the end of the workout before holding his own press conference with the media after coach Jack Del Rio had done the same.
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