Taking a closer look at potential cap casualties of the Oakland Raiders for the 2018 offseason, including several key players.
Not more than one day after the official end of the 2017 NFL season, the Oakland Raiders began making changes to their roster with the release of starting cornerback David Amerson.
This will certainly not be the last player under contract that Reggie McKenzie, Jon Gruden and the Raiders cut ties with this offseason. Let’s take a closer look at the rest of the team’s potential cap casualties, in no particular order.
Crabtree might be the most likely player under contract for 2018 (and beyond) that might not be back in Silver and Black. There have already been multiple reports from team insiders — such as Michael Gehlken — that his time in Oakland has likely come to an end.
Crabtree’s 2018 cap number, per Over The Cap, is $7,718,750, and there would be no dead money if he were to be released.
After spending an extended period of time on the open market in 2015, McKenzie inked the former Niner to a one-year, $3 million dollar “prove it” deal. At 27 years old, there was concern about Crabtree not living up to his draft slot, and also with his rumored “diva” attitude.
Many in Raider Nation were unhappy with the signing, even on a contract as small as the one he signed. Crabtree laughed on camera when Al Davis picked Darrius Heyward-Bey over him in the 2009 NFL Draft, and that still resonated with a large part of the fan base.
But Crab quickly won many of those fans over with his performance, racking up 85 catches for 922 yards and 9 TDs in his first season in Oakland. He was signed to a four-year, $35 million deal after Week 13.
He became Derek Carr’s go-to target in the red zone, and there was no concerns whatsoever with his attitude or his effort on the field. Crabtree played hard every down and he seemed to be having the time of his life, often jumping into the crowd after scoring a touchdown.
Crabtree’s second season with the Raiders was similar statistically — 89 catches, 1,003 yards and 8 TDs. He and Amari Cooper became the first WR duo for the team to both eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in the season since Jerry Rice and Jerry Porter did so on 2001.
Unfortunately, drops became a major issue in 2016, and by most accounts, Crabtree led the league in dropped passes.
Then 2017 happened — and more specifically, Todd Downing happened. The entire Raiders offense took a step back, and Crabtree’s production fell off a cliff. He finished the year with 58 receptions for 618 yards, but he still grabbed 8 TDs. However, drops were a problem once again, and his big scuffle with Aqib Talib caused those attitude/locker room concerns to creep back up. And in the season finale, depending on which report you believe, Crabtree either removed himself from the game or he was benched by the coaching staff.
Crabtree will be 31 early in the 2018 season, and he is still owed around $16M total over the next two seasons. His production has likely been worth that, but the question is will it continue to be worth it?
Assuming Derek Carr can get back on track with Jon Gruden, Crabtree certainly can return to 2015 form. So the bigger question might actually be what Gruden’s opinion of him will be.
Prediction: Crabtree gets cut.
If not for the recent Crabtree reports that he may be leaving town, Sean Smith would stand out as the most obvious potential cap casualty on the roster.
As one of the top free agents on the market prior to the start of the 2016 season, Oakland signed Smith to a four-year, $38M contract. After a successful stint with the Kansas City Chiefs, his signing, on paper, bolstered the CB position while also weakening a division rival.
But Smith quickly turned out to be a bust. He was embarrassed by Brandin Cooks in his debut, even to the point to where he was benched. He would go on to struggle for much of the 2016 season, giving up big plays all year long.
The story was the same for much of 2017. He would have occasional stretches of games where he would play well when used correctly, but those moments were few and far between. Smith really came on strong at the end of year, however, with John Pagano running the defense. He was keeping quality WRs in check, so much so that he was rarely even being targeted.
But Smith will be 31 in 2018, and his cap number for the season is $8.5M with no dead money if released. His salary for 2019 is $9 million.
Despite him playing well under Pagano, that dollar amount is too much to justify paying a mediocre-at-best 31-year old cornerback. Not to mention the pending legal trouble he faces, as he was accused of assaulting his sister’s then-boyfriend at a Fourth of July get-together.
Expect Smith to be cut, for Gareon Conley to assume the role of CB1 and for the Raiders to find additional help at the position, likely in both free agency and the draft.
Prediction: Smith gets cut.
The Greg Papa rumor came to life prior to the start of the season, as the Raiders were able to convince Beast Mode to come out of retirement to play for his hometown team. But will the homecoming end after just one season?
Lynch might be the most polarizing player on the entire roster — he is loved by many in the fan base and he is hated by others. From his sense of humor to his protests during the National Anthem, there are multiple reasons why he is a divisive player among the fan base.
On the field, Lynch ran for 891 yards and 7 TDs in 2017, with an average yards per carry mark of 4.3. Not flashy, but quality numbers. He also did this while facing more eight-man fronts than any other back in the league.
However, Lynch doesn’t appear to be a natural fit in Jon Gruden’s system — which usually calls for a pass-catching back. The two parties are expected to meet to discuss Lynch’s future sometime soon, and this one feels like it could go either way.
Neither Jalen Richard or DeAndre Washington seem poised to takeover the starting role. Lynch most likely can’t handle a workload of more than 15 carries per game, but he still proved himself to be an effective goal-line option at the very least. Keeping him around also would not mean the Raiders wouldn’t be able to invest in the position — either in the draft or in free agency.
Lynch’s 2018 cap number is $5,953,125 with no dead money if released.
Prediction: Marshawn is back in 2018.
Of the four most notable players who may be in jeopardy of losing their roster spot in 2018 — Bruce Irvin and three aforementioned players — it’s Irvin who seems like the most likely to return.
He’ll be 31 in 2018 with a cap number of $8.25M, with no dead money if released. And he’s due $9.25M in 2019 if he’s still around. A steep price to pay, but that’s the going rate for a quality pass rusher.
Irvin has been the second best player on the defense behind Khalil Mack these last two seasons. He racked up 7 sacks and 6 forced fumbles in 2016, and another 8 sacks and 4 forced fumbles in 2017.
His 2017 season started off quite slow, but he finally picked things up when Ken Norton Jr. was fired. He had only 2.5 sacks as of Week 11, but he added 5.5 in the home stretch to get to 8 total on the year. His late uptick in production may have saved his job, but it’s no sure thing he’ll be back.
As already mentioned, he’ll be 31 years old next season and he already started to show signs of slowing down. Khalil Mack is also due for a monster contract extension, and depending on what happens with the other potential cap casualties, money could be a bit tight. So it’s certainly possible the team looks to get younger, cheaper and more athletic at this spot.
Ultimately, his positional importance might be his saving grace. There is no third option on this team as far as pass rushers go, and new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will need to surround Mack with as much talent as possible in order for his defense to be successful. That likely means Irvin is back for at least next season.
Prediction: Irvin is back in 2018.
Misc. Potential Cap Casualties
Looking over the rest of the roster that is under contract for 2018, there are several other players who may be cut loose this offseason.
Marshall Newhouse – $1.75M cap hit – $0 dead money
Clive Walford – $2,103,626 cap hit – $198,626 dead money
Seth Roberts – $4.45M cap hit – $2M dead money
Cordarrelle Patterson – $3.25M cap hit, $0 dead money
Jihad Ward – $1,510,854 cap hit – $1,114,472 dead money
Misc. others on low-dollar contracts such as Dexter McDonald, Johnny Holton, Antonio Hamilton and a few others are also no guarantee to come back.
Regarding Newhouse, he definitely seems like a sure thing to be sent packing. He started off 2017 season playing well, but ended up being a disaster for much of the year. Plus, the Raiders have a handful of young options at right tackle in-house that can take over at right tackle.
Walford hasn’t lived up to his draft slot and has been seldom used as pass-catcher, especially in 2017. Jared Cook took over the lead role and had a quality year, and Lee Smith was the blocking tight end again once he was healthy. That made Walford pretty much useless. He should be gone.
Most fans will want Seth Roberts gone, but his dead money hit is likely too much to justify releasing him. Plus, the team seems to like him much more than Raider Nation does, and they really value his run blocking ability. But if Crabtree is gone, that puts Seth Roberts into the no. 2 role until another WR is added. Scary thought.
Patterson should be back, but that’s a decent salary for a player that didn’t have much production. But Jon Gruden should absolutely be able to make good use of Cordarrelle in his offense.