Raiders mailbag: Talking New Year's Eve

Raiders mailbag: Talking New Year's Eve
March 11, 2013, 7:45 am
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Carson Palmer is set to make $13 million in 2013 with the Raiders. (USA Today Images)

One day to go until the NFL's new year begins, along with free agency, trades and the like. Late Sunday night, the Raiders still had 17 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, but after the restructuring of contracts belonging to right guard Mike Brisiel and strong safety Tyvon Branch, Oakland is now about $8.5 million under the salary cap of $123 million.

Cuts could be coming shortly, as in middle linebacker Rolando McClain and purportedly defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, while quarterback Carson Palmer might be asked to restructure or take a pay cut.

Yes, it's New Year's Eve, NFL style. As such, the mailbag overfloweth, so to speak...

If Raiders sign Cullen Jenkins from the Eagles, does that open up Geno Smith opportunities?(@DopeItsAnt)
Too late. After visiting with the Raiders last week and renewing acquaintances with general manager Reggie McKenzie (they know each other from their days together in Green Bay) Jenkins agreed to a reported three-year, $8-million contract, with $3 million guaranteed, with the New York Giants on Sunday night. That's probably too rich a deal for the rebuilding Raiders, though Jenkins would have been a fine fit in Oakland. Still, how that relates to the Geno Smith smokescreen makes little to no sense to me. I still feel the Raiders are going to trade out of that No. 3 overall pick to get additional draft picks to continue the rebuild. The trick, then, is getting another team to agree to such a swap, right? And that's where putting out "signs" that Geno Smith is worthy of the No. 3 pick and the Raiders just might be crazy enough to pull the trigger comes into play here.

Tell (Carson Palmer) to really help the team and play for the veterans minimum then (@brianjodoin)
Aye, what short memories some of you have. Because that is exactly what Palmer did last summer, 'memmer? You 'memmer. 'Memmer? (George Lopez voice) Palmer restructured to give the Raiders cap room in Reggie McKenzie's first season as a general manager and played the 2012 season for the minimum, a base salary of $825,000, while reducing his cap number to less than $3.165 million. And that is why restructuring, from a team's standpoint, is like credit card spending -- the hit comes later…like a $13 million base salary in 2013 with a $15.335 million cap number. In trading emails with Palmer last week, he told me he was "not sure what's going to happen (but) would love to be back in Oakland and compete" after passing for 4,018 yards, the second-most in franchise history, with 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 14-plus games. Truly, Palmer was the least of the Raiders' worries and, in this corner, was the team's MVP. He took brutal hit after brutal hit, including the spear from Carolina's Greg Hardy that ended his season with cracked ribs and a bruised lung. But a 4-12 record and doubt over whether he is seen as the Raiders' QB of the Future hangs around Alameda like a $13 million albatross. Would he take a paycut? I think he would at this stage of his career. But if the Raiders continue with this "competition" code word with Terrelle Pryor, Palmer just might call their bluff on it and expect to be paid what his contract calls for in 2013, hastening a cut. If you were Palmer, would you rather throw the ball to Jacoby Ford or Larry Fitzgerald? In any event, it would seem a necessity for Palmer to take a pay cut -- after a personal standout season -- to remain in Oakland. And therein lies the rub.

(Hue Jackson) couldn't be worse than McKenzie!!!!!!! Reggie is a huge flop and extremely disappointing thus far (@michaelmunoz36)
Proud citizen of HueJack City, are we? The seven exclamation points suggest as much. But really, what did you expect in Year 1 of a massive rebuilding project that began with McKenzie having to deal with so many "out-of-whack" contracts? I know, consecutive 8-8 seasons followed by a 4-12 regression should have you frustrated. I know it had Mark Davis scratching his head. But it's only been one year of what could be a four-year process, considering all of the financial issues McKenzie faced upon being handed the keys to Silver and Blackdom. Your frustration is noted. Really, you could say the 8-8 seasons after eight straight years of 11 losses of more were more fool's gold than actual progress, considering last year's showing.

How's the contract talks going with (Philip) Wheeler? (@d_cambre)
In this corner, this should be McKenzie's No. 1 in-house target. The fact that this has not been taken care of yet with free agency beginning Tuesday is a head-scratcher. In fact, you wonder if McKenzie wishes he had given Wheeler, who played for a $700,000 base salary, the multi-year free-agent deal last year rather than right guard Mike Brisiel. Alas, there is time. The risk, though, is allowing Wheeler to hit the open market might make his asking price go up. Wheeler told the San Francisco Chronicle last week he was not sure if returning to Oakland was the "best scenario" for him. "I had a good time here but I'm not sure who's on the team next year," Wheeler told the paper. "And I don't know how much other teams are going to be interested in which teams. It's exciting…there's no telling what's going to happen."

Raiders should try signing James Harrison now that he got cut, workout warrior/attitude like his fits our culture. Ur thoughts? (David Gonzalez)
Two questions -- How much tread is left on Harrison, and where would he play? Harrison has been an outside linebacker in the Steelers' 3-4 defense; the Raiders play a 4-3. And I know, great players find the field, regardless of scheme. But again, how much tread is left on Harrison, who has missed eight games total the last two seasons? Plus, not sure if you've noticed this or not, but Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen are changing the Raiders' culture, and while Harrison's ruthlessness is celebrated by many, he is also seen as a cheap-shot artist by others. And his multitude of penalties and fines don't jibe with this new regime. Plus, he's probably too expensive for the Raiders, who are looking for up-and-coming pieces to fit together, rather then a former star on the downside of his career. Then again…