'Handi-capped' Raiders looking to free up money

'Handi-capped' Raiders looking to free up money
April 8, 2013, 12:30 pm
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One-third of the Raiders' salary cap allotment for 2013 will be dedicated to "dead money." (AP)

Much has been made of the Raiders' so-called "salary cap hell" that has handcuffed the team in free agency and prompted the departures of numerous big-money veterans, and with good reason.

More than one-third of the Raiders' salary cap allotment for 2013 will be dedicated to "dead money," or earmarked for players who will not be on the team this coming season.

We're talking guys such as defensive tackle Richard Seymour, whose contract voided and -- while he is an unrestricted free agent -- will still count an astounding $13.714 million against the cap.

There are other gone-but-still-costly players to consider, among them quarterback Carson Palmer, whose $9.34 million cap hit belies his trade to Arizona. Also notoriously notable are linebacker Rolando McClain, who was waived and will count as $7.26 million in dead money; defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, cut with $6.324 million against the cap, and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, also cut but leaving a cap number of $5.26 million.

As SI.com notes, the remaining $75 million or so for the Raiders to spend this season is the lowest total in the NFL.

So where do the Raiders stand at the moment in terms of available cap space?

According to our corporate cousins at Pro Football Talk, the Raiders were $1.6 million under the salary cap of $123 million as of April 3, the third-lowest amount in the NFL. Only St. Louis ($506,000) and Washington ($669,000) had less cap space.

Keep in mind, this is before the draft.

So after clearing out the five most expensive contracts coming into 2013 -- those belonging to Seymour, Palmer, defensive back Michael Huff, Heyward-Bey and Kelly -- and restructuring the fifth and 10th priciest contracts, those belonging to strong safety Tyvon Branch and right guard Mike Brisiel, where else can the Raiders find cap room?

The next most expensive returning contract on the roster belongs to running back Darren McFadden, who is due a base salary of more than $5.856 million (cap value: just over $9.685 million) as he enters the final year of his contract.

Restructuring McFadden would give Oakland additional cap room, although it also would mean extending his deal.

Is it a gamble worth taking? When healthy, McFadden is a Top 5 back, but he has never played more than 13 games in a season and has missed a combined 23 games due to injury in his five-year career, including 13 the past two seasons.

Still, what if McFadden does stay healthy in 2013, has a big year behind the returning power-blocking scheme and is deemed part of the Raiders' future? His price tag then goes up for 2014 and beyond.

Then there is placekicker Sebastian Janikowski, who is also heading into a contract year. Janikowski is due a base salary of $3.8 million, and his cap number is $5.1 million.

Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece is another contract-year guy who is due $1.423 million in base salary. His cap value is $1.723 million.

Surely Reece seems a more logical restructuring/extension candidate than Janikowski as the Raiders look to the future while shaving dollars where they can.

A look, then, at the Raiders' 10 most expensive contracts in terms of salary cap value heading into his offseason and what's become of those contracts to date:

Player Cap number* Result
Richard Seymour $19.13 Contract voided
Carson Palmer $15.34 Traded to Arizona
Michael Huff $11.288.750 Cut
Tommy Kelly $11.099.270 Cut
Tyvon Branch $10.90 Restructured
Darrius Heyward-Bey $10.60 Cut
Darren McFadden $9.685.084 On roster, contract year
Rolando McClain $6.68 Waived
Sebastian Janikowski $5.10 On roster, contract year
Mike Brisiel $5.06 Restructured
    *in millions