The Oakland Raiders salary cap situation can be described as many things—as long as those many things aren't positive. No one knows exactly what the rules regarding the salary cap will be at the moment, but the popular thought is that it will be set around $120 million, and I have yet to see any mention of leeway or a grace period allowing teams to adjust after coming off of an uncapped year.
The biggest question mark regarding the return of the salary cap seems to be if the league will account for "dead" money or not. In past years they have. This is especially key for the Raiders as they have a substantial amount of dead money.
For the Raiders it could lead to them being roughly either $15 million over or under the salary cap. We already discussed what it will look should the dead money not be counted. Now, let's take a look at what will happen if it is.
As I mentioned in the other cap piece, the Raiders best chance to lower their cap number will be to negotiate a long term deal with Wimbley. He is currently under the franchise tag which will come with an $11.3 cap hit. The Raiders would have several options on extending him to lower his cap number in 2011. However, they will all come with him being overpaid for a longer period of time.
Wimbley is not worth $11 million, and he isn't going to want to give up $11 million for one season unless he gets a hefty piece of guaranteed money.
But that may be a pill they have to swallow, and if they do they it would probably be possible to get his 2011 cap number into the $3 million range. So, there is $8 million right there. Jump over for the rest....
Alright, here is where things start to get tricky. I could not find an official list of player's 2011 cap numbers. Their cap number is figured by their annual salary plus their signing bonus, which is divided evenly among the term of the contract.
I had a hard time finding the signing bonus for each player. It is much easier to find guarnteed numbers, which isn't just signing bonuses. For instance DHB got around $23 million in guaranteed money, but the large portion of that was in his second year salary.
The other thing is in the old system any player cut before June 1st would have the remainder of their signing bonus count towards that year's cap, and any player cut after June 1st would have their remaining signing bonus count against next year's cap. Who knows what that policy will be like after the lockout.
For the sake of this, I am going to assume that the Raiders will do what they need to do to get that cap hit for next year.
If any of these numbers are off, please correct me.
Really the only players whose deal they could restructure and save enough money to make it worth it is Darren McFadden and Tommy Kelly.
McFadden carries a $7.1 million cap number in 2011, and is under contract for three more seasons. To do this and find cap relief for 2011 they would have to commit a lot of long term dollars into McFadden, which is risky business with any running back, let alone with one that has McFadden's injury history.
Tommy Kelly will also be worth looking at. His cap number still contains about $8 million over three seasons. His 2011 cap number is just over $7 million. It wouldn't really be worth it to cut Kelly, given his production and the fact that they'd take a huge cap hit in 2012. They would likely have to guarantee Kelly more money in the future to get him to renegotiate.
To be honest, I have no idea how likely the last two scenarios are, and I am not exactly clear on the ramifications for the 2011 cap numbers.
I am clear that the following players are in danger of finding themselves on the chopping block. Remember, the Raiders could renegotiate any of these players deals for lower amounts if the player's would prefer to do that than hit the open market.
I list the player, than the amount their outright release would save the team, and then any future cap hit. They appear in order of their likelihood to get cut.
1) Cooper Carlisle: $2.5 million
The Raiders need a guards, but they don't need to pay a guard $2.5 million that doesn't fit the system.
2) Chris Johnson will save $3.2 million - $2 million cap hit in 2012
There are a bunch of quality CBs on the market. There is no way CJ will get $3.2 million on the open market. They can get him down to around the $1.5-2 million range, or find someone comparable in the open market, and release him outright.
3) Sebastian Janikowski $2.6 million
Like CJ there is no way Janikowski is going to get $2.6 on the open market. However, he will still get solid money, and if push comes to shove, the Raiders can save $2 million by signing a kicker for the minimum and watching Janikowski walk.
4) Hiram Eugene $2.5 million
The Raiders just signed Hiram, but they didn't guarantee any of the money. If the Raiders think Stevie Brown can play FS, Eugen could be out the door.
6) Michael Bennett $890,00
This move won't save much money, but even if the Raiders don't retain Michael Bush the Raiders still have McFadden, Jones and Cartwright to play RB.
7) Shane Lechler $3.2 million
I don't think anyone wants to see Lechler go, but when you are over the cap, and you have a punter making $3.2 million, he is going to have a chance of getting the ax.
Those seven players total just under $15 million. This is not good. If they don't rework any of the other deals they would have to cut all of these players to just get even with the cap, and they still have to sign the rookies and fill out the roster.
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