Raiders Finally Drop Tommy Kelly


The Raiders released DT Tommy Kelly yesterday, a move long suspected to be in the works. Kelly was the Raiders 2nd longest tenured player, only surpassed by kicker Sebastian Janikowski. While Janikowski is certainly well paid for a kicker, his numbers are not exceptionally egregious and he is a UFA next offseason. It is fitting that Kelly is essentially the end of late Raiders owner Mr. Al Davis’ massive overpayments to keep his own players in Silver and Black. Kelly may have been the quintessential poster child for this spending, and was the last remaining truly massive contract doled out by Mr. Davis still on the roster. As often was the case, this practice usually meant very large numbers for very small play.

Kelly was in the second to last year of his massive 7 year $50 million plus contract. Kelly was ascending and largely unproven at the time, and though he went on to flash at times, his play was largely inconsistent. Often reminding some of the way former LB Lavar Arrington played, Kelly seemed to eschew gap integrity and responsibility in order to make a big play. Sometimes it worked, often times it was the impetuous for those all too often long touchdown runs for the opposing running back.

Kelly also seemingly had become more outspoken about the team and its direction, something that couldn’t have sat well with tight lipped General Manager Reggie McKenzie. It’s possible that Kelly had already seen the writing on the wall anyway. Kelly, along with DT Richard Seymour, DB Michael Huff, and QB Carson Palmer restructured their base salaries to the veteran minimum last offseason in order to get the Raiders under the cap. I had assumed this move was done because the Raiders could not afford to absorb the cap hit it would have taken to release them last offseason. As of today, only Palmer remains and his days appear numbered.

Assuming Kelly’s release was straight, and he was not designated a June 1, the Raiders will get roughly a $4,775,000 cap savings. Kelly will count for $6,324,270 of dead money for 2012 and then disappear from the books. Kelly was due a $11,099,270 cap number, and a $6,500,000 base salary – far too prohibitive for a player of his caliber on a team deep into a rebuilding project.

This leaves two players on the Raiders with exorbitant long term cap numbers: QB Carson Palmer and LB Rolando McClain. Interestingly, neither is a direct result of Mr. Davis. Palmer was acquired by former HC Hue Jackson, and McClain was paid under the old rookie scale. McClain as has been noted is likely to be a June 1st designation. The Raiders currently seem to be in a game of chicken with Palmer, and as some have noted, may be hoping to exact some value in a trade. The Arizona Cardinals are most often used as the team in that exercise, but whether or not that comes to fruition remains to be seen.

The Raiders are set up for long term success with regards to the cap in any case, perhaps coming in at over 30 million in space next offseason. A time when they will have to re-sign key free agents, among them LT Jared Veldheer and DL Lamarr Houston. The Raiders sit about 5 million under the cap with Kelly’s release not including the rollover. So while they don’t have a ton of room to play with currently, this will soon change next offseason. The Raiders finally appear to be out of cap hell, which also means that will soon no longer be a viable excuse. The demolition is almost complete. Now comes the time to build.

In the mean time, the Raiders contracts and cap situation can be found here as always.

Jim can be reached for any questions or comments at