Ah the dreaded (dreadful?) Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have become a model of how not to run a franchise over the last decade. Poor investments all over the place and nothing to show for it. It seems that every season the Raiders have to make cap room to function yet every year they end up nowhere near the playoffs. This is probably the year where they can begin to come out of that hole and make the turn back towards relevancy in the NFL.
My estimates have the Raiders somewhere around $131 million in cap commitments for 47 players, but that number is a bit misleading as DT Richard Seymour currently carries a cap figure of $19.133 million and his deal is set to void on Friday. He will still count for $13.714 million on the teams books even when his deal officially voids, a perfect example of the Raiders overreliance on void years to spread out cap hits, but that move should put them right close to the salary cap limit. I can’t picture Seymour coming back and I don’t think its wise for the Raiders to consider bringing him back either as they need to get younger.
The Raiders have a top heavy roster with 5 players (not including Seymour) occupying more than $9.5 million in cap room apiece so there are plenty of places they can look for cap relief. QB Carson Palmer is likely a goner occupying $15.335 million in cap room. The Raiders overpaid dearly for him in both trade compensation and salary in hopes of making the playoffs and now Palmer either has to take a paycut or move on. Playing Terrelle Pryor in the last game of the year was really a brilliant move to really force the issue. Releasing Palmer saves the Raiders nearly $6 million in cap room. He could have options outside of Oakland, but nobody is going to pay him $13 million dollars and I would think Oakland would offer him more than any other team in the league on a restructured deal/ .
DT Tommy Kelly has been unproductive while also being a member of the double digit cap hit club for Oakland. Releasing Kelly saves $4.775 million in cap room and 2013 and more importantly gets him off the books now rather than having him also contribute dead money to the 2014 cap.
RB Darren McFadden is in the final year of his contract and could be released, freeing up $5.86 million in cap space. McFadden can be a dangerous player, but he is never healthy and is not a feature back that you can afford to occupy $9.685 million in cap room in any season. The team could explore trading him before releasing him.
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, who has averaged about 500 yards a season since being drafted in 2009 is set to earn $7.721 in salary this season and carry a cap charge of $10.601 million. There is no chance of either occurring so he has to choose between a paycut or a release….K Sebastian Janikowski will free up $4 million in cap room if the team were to release him.
Perhaps the most interesting situation involves LB Rolando McClain. He has worn his welcome out in Oakland, but, I believe he is still owed a good portion of guaranteed money that remains on his contract. As a top 10 draft pick under the old rookie system, players like McClain got guarantees that in effect made them uncuttable for the duration of the contract. McClain received a $12.1 million dollar option bonus in 2011 and that alone makes for a dead money charge of $6.91 million if released, which represents a net loss of cap room. He also has an additional $3.665 in salary guarantees that the Raiders will owe him if he is cut, though I will try to verify that this is the case.
If true it only makes him a candidate for trade. Even if the Raiders receive cap credits for someone else signing him the timing could make things difficult for Oakland. I have heard some people mention that the Raiders will go after his bonus money already paid, but it is near impossible to go after option bonus money as the CBA only allows you to recover damages if actions occur in the year the bonus is paid. McClain did not have issues in 2011 so it’s a dream for Oakland to recover that money. This could be a situation where they are stuck together or at the very least where he will remain on the books until June 1st.
Notable Free Agents
The Raiders have 9 free agents, including Seymour, who were primary rotation guys last season. Now when a team has as poor of a year as the Raiders did in 2012 I don’t think the large number of free agents is a concern. If anything it illustrates the opportunity they have to move forward with the franchise. I don’t think anyone is going to shed any tears if Khalif Barnes, Brandon Myers, and Matt Shaughnessy don’t return next season. The two free agents that will draw the most interest from Oakland should be LB Philip Wheeler and P Shane Lechler, though its pretty clear that the Raiders need to stop over-investing in special teamers if they want to improve.
Trades have eliminated selections in round 2 and 5 for the Raiders, which could make trading out of the 3 spot to try to amass more picks a good option for a team that is in the midst of a complete roster overhaul. The Raiders rookie pool should be just under $6.2 million this year.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.