Some of the best contracts come by waiting out those initial runs at free agency and that’s what the Raiders did here with Nelson. Despite the fact that Nelson was 32 last season he is still a very productive player, but we often look at that productivity with a glass half full approach when players are on the wrong side of 30. That situation helped Nelson fall into the Raiders lap where he should not only improve the secondary but take on the mentoring role that has been vacated by the retirement of Charles Woodson.
While the Raiders have a young team that is on the rise I don’t think its an exaggeration to say that the expectations this year are pretty high. While its not a win now team they do need to start winning to make sure the young players don’t get caught up in a losing culture. Next thing you know the promising core becomes something more like the Matt Stafford Lions that every now and then make a playoff run but generally have disappointed overall. Nelson is the type of player that can help Oakland make that turn and if he doesn’t it will only cost the Raiders just slightly about $4 million.
The other thing I like about this contract is the way they used the incentives. Rather than using some type of qualifier that would likely be met this season to avoid a cap charge this season a large portion of Nelson’s incentives count on the cap. If he plays well and hits those triggers it means they wont lose any additional cap space next season. If he doesn’t play at a high level or fails completely the Raiders could grab an additional $1.75M in cap room for next year. It’s a low risk contract with a reasonable reward opportunity.
Other than a few random contracts the Raiders contract system is pretty straightforward. Each player receives two years of guaranteed salary but no signing bonus. So that more or less means that no player will carry any dead money if released in the future. So when we are looking at a “worst contract” I think the focus probably runs a bit more towards the valuation.
Some of the salaries offered by the Raiders are byproducts of the contract structure as well as the history of the organization. The reputation in Oakland was so bad for so many years that overpaying to attract free agents has been a must. So when you see an outlandish salary for the best available guard, center, linebacker, etc… there is at least some logic behind the move. I didn’t see the logic for Williams.
Williams wasn’t a very productive pass rusher nor was he consistent enough to be a full time player. The Raiders still committed top 10 money to Williams as well as the first two year salary guarantee. He started more games in Oakland and saw more playing time, but he still pretty much is the same guy. That doesn’t make him a bad player by any means but I think pretty highly overvalued by Oakland.
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.