Raiders more in salary cap purgatory, not hell, this year

Raiders more in salary cap purgatory, not hell, this year
February 5, 2013, 2:00 pm
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"We're not in a salary cap situation like last year, but we still have issues and have some decisions that have to be made..." -- Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie (AP)

With the NFL's salary cap for the 2013 season expected to be $121 million, a record-low $400,000 increase from 2012, the Raiders would reportedly be $4.5 million over the cap as it stands today.

All teams must be cap compliant by March 12, at 1 p.m. PT, when the league's new year begins, along with free agency and trades. Of course, the Raiders can re-sign their own free agents -- they have 25 players scheduled for some form of free agency, including 17 unrestricted free agents, one restricted free agent and seven exclusive-rights free agents -- before then.

But before they can even think of re-upping their own guys -- Linebacker Philip Wheeler? Tight end Brandon Myers? Defensive tackle Desmond Bryant? -- they have to get under the cap.

Meaning, now that the Super Bowl is over, it's cut season.

A year ago at this time, then-incoming general manager Reggie McKenzie was dealing with "out-of-whack contracts" while being $30 million over the cap, by his estimation. It should make dealing with $4.5 million a breeze, right?

"We're not in a salary cap situation like last year, but we still have issues and have some decisions that have to be made before free agency, or when free agency starts," McKenzie said to a group of beat reporters last month. "So, we're not out of the woods, by any stretch. But, we are better off than last year."

Call it Salary Cap Purgatory, rather than Salary Cap Hell. So where to start weeding things out?

Well, according to documents obtained by CSNCalifornia.com, 10 Raiders players under contract for next year have salary cap numbers of at least $5.1 million. In fact, the 10 combine for a whopping $104,877,104.00 against the cap, or 86.7 percent of the would-be cap. But that number is a bit skewed as the contract of defensive tackle Richard Seymour, which has a cap number of $19.133 million for 2013, can be voided by Friday. The Raiders have already announced that Seymour will be an unrestricted free agent.

Without Seymour, the remaining nine contracts with salary cap numbers of at least $5.1 million add up to $85,744,104.00. It's still a hefty number as less than 17 percent of the roster accounts for almost 71 percent of the cap.

Cut candidates, or contract restructure candidates? Because remember, it is much easier for teams, and gives teams much more flexibility, to restructure contracts when a majority of a player's cap number is in his base salary. Not so much for a player entering the final year of his contract, though, as he would then have to be extended to spread out a restructure.

Also, keep in mind, teams can designate "franchise tag" players from Feb. 18 through March 4.

A look, then, at the 10 Raiders players who have salary cap numbers of at least $5 million for 2013, with their respective base salary number included, in millions…

DT Richard Seymour $19.133 million ($7.5)
Prognosis: He gone.

QB Carson Palmer $15.335 ($13)
Prognosis: Might be asked to take a pay cut.

DB Michael Huff $11.288.750 ($4)
Prognosis: Not much Raiders can do here.

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey $10.601 ($7.721)
Prognosis: Hearing rumblings he is a cut candidate.

DT Tommy Kelly $11.099.270 ($6.5)
Prognosis: Acting as own agent, he's a cut candidate.

*RB Darren McFadden $9.685.084 ($5.826.250)
Prognosis: It's tricky, but Raiders ready to walk this way with Run DMC in contract year.

SS Tyvon Branch $10.900 ($6)
Prognosis: See Michael Huff

MLB Rolando McClain $6.675 ($4.005)
Prognosis: Raiders might take a cap hit to cut him, but it would be worth it.

RG MIke Brisiel $5.06 ($4.35)
Prognosis: Major ankle surgery and scrapping of ZBS makes him a "Cut; failed physical" candidate.

*PK Sebastian Janikowski $5.1 ($3.8)
Prognosis: SeaBass swimming upstream in final year, unless Raiders restructure him.

*Entering last year of contract