Raiders

Raiders have less cap space, fewer needs heading into 2017 free agency

Raiders have less cap space, fewer needs heading into 2017 free agency

The Raiders have had tons of salary cap space in years past. General manager Reggie McKenzie created it with tough decisions early in his Raiders tenure, and used it on veteran free agents aplenty.

That’s not his ultimate goal. He prefers to build through the NFL draft and reward homegrown players for hard work.

Free agency is a supplement, one to be used with caution. The best never leave their club, inflating value on many who hit the open market.

McKenzie had to bandage his roster in recent seasons while a young, drafted foundation grew. That effort drew mixed results. Patchwork didn’t produce much in 2014, when aging veterans generally cashed the Raiders’ checks.

[BAIR: Ranking the Raiders' free agent needs by position]

McKenzie spent big on players in the prime the past few seasons, and hit on several key components signed early in the free agency period. Count Rodney Hudson, Kelechi Osemele, Donald Penn, Bruce Irvin and Michael Crabtree as home runs. Nate Allen was a swing and miss. So was LaMarr Woodley and Matt Schaub. Sean Smith might fall into that category in time, or reverse a trend after a so-so 2016 season.

The Raiders made a bunch of splash signings in recent offseasons. That number could decrease this time around.

The Raiders have $43 million in salary cap space heading into the start of free agency. That’s a lot, not as much as before.

The NFL’s legal tampering period begins on Tuesday morning, a two-day stretch where teams are allowed to contact player representatives and negotiate contract terms.

Players can formally agree to new deals and sign contracts starting Thursday, the formal beginning of free agency. Terms are often agreed upon during this negotiation window.

The Raiders can afford to sign players in free agency. They could use help at inside linebacker, slot cornerback, running back, receiver and along the defensive line.

The big splashes should decrease in volume. Extending quarterback Derek Carr is a top offseason priority, with big money going to Khalil Mack in the relatively near future. Gabe Jackson and Amari Cooper are also players worth rewarding down the line.

“You try to do the best that you can to work the contracts so you can keep as many good players as possible,” McKenzie said in January. “But, we all know that you cannot have a roster of a lot of multi-million dollar players. That’s just not the way this system works. So, we’re just going to have to continue to strive to get good players for the lesser amount. I mean, it’s just the way it is. Our quarterback is going to command a high dollar. Khalil’s going to command a high dollar. So, we’ll work around it. But we don’t feel, at this point, threatened by it.”

The Raiders owe big money to Hudson, Osemele and Smith among others, so another giant class of big contracts may not be advisable despite fans wanting big names like Dont’a Hightower, Tony Jefferson and Calais Campbell arriving together.

The Raiders could use some depth on offense, but free agency might be means of improving a defense that didn’t live up to internal expectation despite having Irvin and Mack rushing strong off the edge.

There is talent available in free agency’s second wave, which comes after the opening salvo. Teams with significant cap space get associated with many players looking for a competitive market in a relatively week free agent class. The Raiders will look for good scheme fits, depth and maybe to see if some of their own free agents can return as they continue to strengthen a playoff roster still lacking in a few areas.

Raiders' Sean Smith charged with assault

Raiders' Sean Smith charged with assault

Raiders cornerback Sean Smith has been charged with assault, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced on Thursday.

The charge is for assault of his sister's boyfriend in Smith's hometown of Pasadena. Smith allegedly beat and stomped the boyfriend's head on the morning of July 4, 2017 in Old Town Pasadena, the district attorney said.

Smith faces formal felony counts of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury to the victim.

The 30-year old plans to fight the charges levied against him. 

"Sean maintains his innocence at this time," Smith's attorney, Daniel Rosenberg told NBC Sports Califorinia on Thursday evening. "We are going to be entering a plea of not guilty and fighting these charges."

A warrant was filed on Aug. 16. Smith's arriagnment is scheduled for Sept. 29. 

Smith was not present at Thursday's Raiders practice, the last session of training camp. He surrendered to Los Angeles County authorities, posted an $80,000 bond and has been released from custody.

If convicted as charged, Smith could face a maximum sentence of seven years in California prison. 

A Raiders spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The case is still under investigation by the Pasadena Police Department. 

This is another blow in a rough summer for Smith. He has struggled on the practice field during training camp and faces an off-field legal issue. Smith is guaranteed $9.5 million for the 2017 season. 

More to come...

After speaking with Marshawn Lynch, two things are crystal clear

After speaking with Marshawn Lynch, two things are crystal clear

NAPA – Marshawn Lynch spoke with the media Thursday for the second time as a Raider. He was quick-witted, disarming and, as always, not suitable for work.

It was five minutes of peak Marshawn, where he brought light to his charitable endeavors, called himself the “daddy” of his position group and cleverly sidestepped all things nation anthem.

He was asked four questions on other topics before elephant in the room was mentioned. It didn’t stick around long.

“I think the elephant left the room because a little mouse ran in here,” Lynch deadpanned. “Didn’t they say elephants are scared of mice or something? That [expletive] left the room, cousin.”

[RATTO: Lynch reminds media how much control he exerts over any interaction]

Two more related questions came down the pike. The first was about Del Rio letting players be themselves. He answered a different question instead.

“Yeah, because on ‘doctor-24,’ it’s a designed way that you’re supposed to run it but I have all freedom to go any way that I choose to run it,” Lynch said. “I would say, yes.”

The final anthem-esque query was deflected in a similar fashion.

“When we run ‘74’ or something like that, where I have to scan and read on both sides, that is pretty difficult. For the most part, I’m a veteran so I can make it work.”

Two things were crystal clear after speaking with Lynch.

He didn’t miss football one bit during his year in retirement. Lynch said this spring he decided to return after the Raiders were approved to relocate away from his native Oakland. He wants to represent his hometown well and give them something to cheer before the team leaves for Las Vegas.

That’s why he’s fired up even for Saturday’s exhibition against the Rams – he’s expected to make a cameo in that game – his first in Oakland wearing silver and black.

“It’s truly a blessing and just to have the opportunity to go and do that is a good [expletive] feeling,” Lynch said. “It’s a good [expletive] feeling.”

Lynch has always been active in the community, and hopes him playing here will bring more visibility to what’s being done to help kids in Oakland.

“I plan on continuing to do what I do in the community,” Lynch said. “It’ll probably be that now that I’m here, more people that are in the community might actually come out and support what it is that we’ve got going on.”