Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $59.4 million ($140M cap limit)
Players Under Contract: 46
Pro Bowlers: 1
Unrestricted Free Agents: 11(4 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 4
Salary Cap Breakdown
Free Agents to Re-sign
Stefen Wisniewski is a talented young center that plays with a chip on his shoulder. There is no way the Raiders can let him walk in free agency and it is surprising he was not already re-signed as there will be other teams vying for him if he reaches free agency. They played things too slow with Jared Veldheer last season and can’t make the same mistake with their center. He should fall in that $6 million a year price range…If Charles Woodson wants to continue playing football there is no reason for the Raiders not to keep him at the same $3.5 million price he signed for this season. At this stage of his career he is like having a coach on the field…Pat Sims seems to enjoy playing in Oakland and is a decent low cost option to have in the line rotation…If Tarell Brown is willing to sign for a low cost contract he might help hold the fort down until they get better players in place, but they should not consider anything more than what he earned in 2014.
Free Agents to Let Walk
At this point the Raiders have to have seen enough of Darren McFadden to realize he is not going to be a special player. They need to break their ties to the past as much as possible and that means letting McFadden find a new home…Oakland took a chance on Carlos Rogers after he was released by the 49ers, but Rogers can’t go anymore and they need to improve in the secondary next season. There is no need for him to return.
Contracts to Modify
Oakland is one of the few teams in the NFL that has little to do with existing players. They have no need for cap room and the players who should earn less money don’t really have business being on the roster and just fall into the “should be released” category. Bringing down Sebastian Janikowski’s salary is not a bad idea but one the Raiders have always been hesitant to do.
Players to Consider Releasing
Tyvon Branch has played a grand total of 5 games in the last two seasons and is one of the last remaining contracts that escaped the great purge of 2013. Branch has large dead money charges in his contract of $6.67 million but his release creates nearly $3 million in space. I can’t see any reason to keep him….The Raiders have swung and missed two years in a row on QB trades and Matt Schaub has pretty much spent the last four months putting his resume together knowing his release is inevitable. Cutting him saves $5.5 million in cash and cap….The Raiders designed LaMarr Woodley’s contract to be a one year tryout and I’d say his 5 game, 5 tackle, and no sack season should not only see him released but also out of the NFL. He is set to earn $5.35 million…Maurice Jones-Drew had nothing left in the tank and will likely retire before getting the call that his contract has been terminated.
The one thing I would not expect Oakland to do in 2015 is repeat the active adult community approach of 2014. The Raiders once again have money and need to bring in young and potentially explosive talent in 2015. It looks as if they have determined that they will keep Reggie McKenzie on as General Manager and while it is not in his DNA to sign big money contracts in free agency the Raiders have such a long way to go that they must do it rather than keeping their fingers crossed with the draft and putting together a patchwork team year after year until the draft hits.
Oakland should be a player for Ndamukong Suh as well as a receiver like Jeremy Maclin or Torrey Smith. They should pursue a Mark Ingram type for running back and they have the money to take a chance on Jason Pierre Paul if he hits the market. McKenzie can still sign these players on his terms with limited bonus money as the Buccaneers have proven that contract model to be acceptable on a wide scale but he will need to go higher on price if he does that. The Raiders should be behind on their required CBA spending so this is the perfect year to play catch up.
The Raiders avoided the big name talent last season which could have helped them improve their secondary as there were viable corners and safeties on the market, positions that are not as deep this year. I don’t believe they can find secondary help in free agency outside of a lateral move from someone like Brown to a Tramon Williams, who McKenzie would likely prefer. That’s not a long term solution though.
The Raiders look to have a QB in place and with the number 4 pick should be able to identify what position they will draft as they hit free agency, which is a help for planning where to allocate money in free agency. The key should be to determine the strength of the draft and free agency to build a strategy where they fill the maximum amount of holes possible by using both avenues to improve. They should be able to come away with secondary help and another linebacker by the end of the draft with a number of starters coming from free agency.