The Oakland Raiders might need additional cap space to continue to fill out the roster. Here is how they can free up some cash.
The Oakland Raiders made quite a few moves on day two of free agency, and there is still more work to be done. With all of the roster turnover that has happened thus far, it can be a bit hard to track how much salary cap the team actually has left to work with.
The last update from Over The Cap has the Raiders just north of $27 million in cap space. But that doesn’t include anything that has happened other than cutting Sean Smith and re-signing Justin Ellis. Based on early word from credible NFL insiders on the contracts the Raiders handed out on Tuesday and Wednesday, Oakland should have around $8 million left in cap space. Signing Rashaan Melvin could bring that number down to somewhere closer to $3M.
Note: This is just an estimate because the team’s remaining salary cap will of course depend on the first-year cap numbers of the contracts signed, and every deal might be structured a little differently than the next. Meaning Jordy Nelson’s deal is obviously going to be different than Derek Carrier, and some deals might me more front-loaded and some might be more back-loaded.
But whether the Raiders have $2 million left in cap space or $12 million left in cap, or somewhere in between, it seems likely that a few roster moves will be made to free up some cash. Depending on how Khalil Mack’s extension is structured, that may be one way to do it, but even so, the Raiders might want even more money to continue to fill out the roster.
So, how can they do that?
Looking at the players currently under contract, there are a few players that stand out that could still be potential cap casualties. Or they could be asked to restructure their deals or simply to take a pay cut. Here is a rundown of who those players could be.
There have been mixed reports about whether or not Bruce Irvin would be staying or going, and for now, it seems like he is staying. “Baby Reggie” has been busy recruiting free agents on Twitter so it definitely seems like he’s been told he’d be back, otherwise why bother.
But that doesn’t mean he’s out of the woods. Irvin has a cap hit of $8.25M, and all of that money would be saved if he were to be released. He’ll be 31 early next season and showed some signs of slowing down in 2017 before ending the year on a strong note.
Bruce’s best argument for job security is the lack of pass rushing options behind him. Denico Autry was comfortably locked in as the third best pass rusher on the team, but he picked up a pay day elsewhere. So if Irvin is let go, Khalil Mack might face quadruple teams on a regular basis.
If anything, Irvin could be asked to take a paycut or to restructure his deal. But with no guaranteed money remaining on his contract, he surely won’t bite. Don’t take my word for it…take his.
Lol u take a pay cut from ur job https://t.co/lpshiigJVa
— Bruce Irvin (@BIrvin_WVU11) March 15, 2018
Lynch is the most polarizing player on the Raiders, but most of that is for reasons off the field. 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 those are 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. But even so, Gruden has been quoted as praising Marshawn, and also talking about the role he is expected to have. So it sure sounds like Beast Mode will return in 2018. The signing of Doug Martin also won’t change anything.
Plus, 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 going forward, but he still proved himself to be an effective goal-line option at the very least. Also, 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. Lynch won’t want to play anywhere else — it’s either the Raiders or retirement, so maybe they can find some common ground and shave a little money off this deal. But that would be the most to expect.
Jared Cook was a pleasant surprise in 2017, catching 54 passes for 588 yards and 2 TDs. It was his second highest yardage total of his career — not big-time numbers, but he was steady and reliable, which was hard to come by on this roster in 2017.
But that doesn’t guarantee him a roster spot next season. He has a cap number of $5.675M, with no dead money if released. Coming off of wrist surgery, it will be might tempting to not let this salary go. Out of Irvin, Lynch and Cook, it’s Jared who is the most likely to be shown the door.
Also, Cook might be expendable. Lee Smith isn’t a threat to take his job, but Derek Carrier might be. At his Pro Day in 2012, Carrier ran a 4.5 40-yard dash, and he was actually a WR in college that converted to TE — so he has some pass-catching skills. Clive Walford hasn’t developed as hoped, but he is another pass-catching option that is still around (for now), and the Raiders could also add a player at the spot in the draft.
Cordarrelle is one of the most dynamic athletes in the entire NFL, but he isn’t used like one. Patterson only caught 31 passes for 309 yards and 0 TDs in 2017, and his upcoming cap hit is $3.25M with no dead money if released. However, he also offers value as one of the best kick returners in the NFL and he has excelled as a gunner on special teams on top of that.
But it all depends on Jon Gruden. If he thinks he can utilize Patterson better than Todd Downing (obviously yes), than there is no reason Patterson shouldn’t stick around in 2018.
Seth Roberts probably holds the title as the most universally disliked player on the Raiders roster. Although he has come up in some big moments with clutch touchdowns, his hands are completely unreliable.
Averaging out his last three seasons as the team’s WR3, this is what his production looks like — 38 catches, 444 yards, 4 touchdowns. That’s about what you can expect from Seth as his ceiling, along with too many drops to count.
But the team loves him for one reason or another, and his run blocking ability likely has a lot to do with it. The bad news here for Raiders fans is that if he is released, the cap savings would be $2.45M while the dead money would be $2M. Whereas if he is cut after this season, the 2019 savings would be $4.65M with no dead money. Reggie’s gonna wait it out.
The aforementioned names are the players that stand out the most, but there are a bunch of non-guaranteed contracts that count again the salary cap that can be let go to free up some cash.
From left to right, these numbers are the base salary and various bonuses. The important numbers here are what is highlighted in red — the first column is the dead money if released and the second column is the cap savings.
A good chunk of the players on the above list could easily be let go. Just doing some simple math, the average salary of this group is somewhere in the ballpark of $600,000. Let’s say 14 of these players are let go — that would be about $8.4M in cap space created.
So no need to worry, Raider Nation…there is enough money for McKenzie and Gruden to extend Khalil Mack, sign the draft class and still fill out the roster. Going forward into the 2019 and beyond, McKenzie will continue to structure contracts in a team-friendly manner so that players can be released with financial penalty to the team. Everything will be fine.