Jared Veldheer’s signing with the Arizona Cardinals was big, both literally and figuratively.
The massive 6-foot-8, 322-pound tackle will step into the starting spot on the left side to solidify a position that has been a weakness for the Cardinals for several years.
But the team on the other side of the signing is feeling an equally big loss.
Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie told Vic Tarfur of the San Francisco Chronicle Tuesday that losing Veldheer was difficult and the Raiders didn’t pursue a contract more aggressively because the tackle wanted out.
“Losing Veldheer was a blow to me. He didn’t want to come back. It wasn’t about finances. The kid didn’t want to play for the Raiders anymore, and I struggled with that,” McKenzie said.
Veldheer refuted McKenzie’s claims Wednesday morning with Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
“I appreciate everything that Oakland did for me over the last four years, we just couldn’t get (a contract) done. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be there, because I know that’s been said recently,” he said. “That just wasn’t the case. Things were unable to get done at the table and that led to free agency and now I looking forward to Arizona and looking to what the future has here.”
Veldheer has been a member of the Cardinals for about two weeks, but had his first thoughts about joining the team four years when he was coming out of tiny Hillsdale College in Michigan.
“Coming out of college, I was down here on a pre-draft visit,” Veldheer told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday. “So I had a chance to meet with some of the personnel guys that are still with the Cardinals and I had a chance to be around the organization a little bit then.
“I was like ‘man, this would be a pretty great place to play’ — and not just because it’s a great football team but a really nice place to live and a place where I can see myself being part of the community.”
Of course, that didn’t happen right away. The Raiders selected Veldheer in the third round of the 2010 draft and he became a fixture on the left side of the team’s offensive line before hitting the free agent market earlier this month.
“Fast forward four years and basically I didn’t know what to expect going into free agency, because there’s so much that can happen and everything happens so fast,” Veldheer said. “But when (general manager) Steve Keim and my agent started talking, it went really fast. They were very aggressive and made it clear that they wanted me here and ever since then, it was clear that I was going to be an Arizona Cardinal.”