The talk around the Raiders of late is the salary cap. Ever since it was discovered the Raiders would be some $22 million over the cap. They need to be under the projected $120 million cap by the beginning of the league year, March 13. But, for cap purposes, it can be difficult to know which players they would be better off cutting and which they would be better off restructuring.
The way to decide this is by simply comparing the players salary cap hit to what how much of their salary would actually come off that cap hit if they were cut.
With that in mind, here are the players who would leave the least money on the Raiders cap should they be cut:
LB Aaron Curry $5.8 million
Remaining cap hit if cut: $0
Yes, the Raiders would be free and clear of all $5.8 million of his cap hit if they were to cut Curry. Although I am not in any way ruling out the possibility that he restructures. The Raiders can ill afford to lose a good linebacker if it's in their power to keep him.
DT John Henderson $4.75 million
Remaining cap hit if cut: $750k
That is a savings of $4 million off the cap if the team cuts ties with the big veteran defensive tackle. I fully expect this to happen.
CB Chris Johnson $4.5 million
Remaining cap hit if cut: $1 million
Johnson lost his starting job last season and may not get it back. No way he makes anywhere near $4.5 million next season. And saving $3.5 million by cutting him is too good to pass up.
OG Cooper Carlisle $3.3 million
Remaining cap hit if cut: $600k
The saving of some $2.7 million is very enticing. But it would leave the Raiders without a solid right guard with experience in the zone blocking scheme. And do us both a favor and spare me the Bruce Campbell replacement talk. He hasn't sniffed the lineup the past two seasons and talk last season was that they were going to try him back at tackle. This team needs Carlisle.
FS Hiram Eugene $2.5 million
Remaining cap hit if cut: $50k
One of the most "out of whack" contracts of them all would leave the Raiders nearly free and clear of $2.5 million if Eugene was cut. I expect that to happen soon.
These cuts would knock $18.45 million off the Raiders 2012 salary.
There are also a few more players of whom it would make more sense to try and restructure their deals based on the amount with which the team would be saddled if they cut them outright.
DT Richard Seymour $14.1 million
Remaining cap hit if cut: $14.1 million
QB Carson Palmer $12.5 million
Remaining cap hit if cut: $12.5 million
LB Kamerion Wimbley $11.85 million
Remaining cap hit if cut: $7.35 million*
FS Michael Huff $9.8 million
Remaining cap hit if cut: $5.5 million
DT Tommy Kelly $8.9 million
Remaining cap hit if cut: $5.8 million
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey $8.2 million
Remaining cap hit if cut: $5.3 million
RB Darren McFadden $9.5 mil
Remaining cap hit if cut: $5.7 million
P Shane Lechler $4.9 million
Remaining cap hit if cut: $3.8 million
TE Kevin Boss $4.75 million
Remaining cap hit if cut: $2.25 million
PK Sebastian Janikowski $4.5 million
Remaining cap hit if cut: $1.7 million
*As mentioned yesterday, the overall amount saved over the life of Wimbley's contract would be $17.5 million in guaranteed money should he be cut prior to March 17. But in terms of the 2012 cap, it makes more sense to try and reach a restructure agreement. Although, there is no way around a straight pay cut. A simple restructure would still mean his salary would be way too high the next few seasons. Hard to know the answer to this riddle.
Keep in mind that not all of these contracts will need to be restructured. By the same token, those whose release would save the most money wouldn't automatically mean the team would take that route.
So here's my solution:
The easiest way to cut down the salary cap would be to sign Richard Seymour to an extension. He is in the last year of his contract and is very open to an extension. Let's say it is a three year deal with a $9 million signing bonus. If Seymour's 2012 total is the same, the restructure would save the team $6 million off the cap this season.
UPDATE: Seymour's contract has indeed been extended and the restructure has saved the team just under $6 million.
Michael Huff is another easy restructure. He is due a $4 million roster bonus on March 16. If the Raiders simply turn that roster bonus into a signing bonus, it would take $2.67 million off the cap this year.
UPDATE: Huff's contract has been restructured to turn his roster bonus into a signing bonus. The Raiders also added much of his salary for 2012 to that bonus to save just under $6 million.
Cut John Henderson, Chris Johnson, and Hiram Eugene which would save nearly $10 million.
UPDATE: Chris Johnson and Hiram Eugene have been cut. They save a total of $6 off the cap.
Extend Aaron Curry and restructure Cooper Carlisle to bring down their total cap hit this season from around $9 million to around $5 million-- a savings of $4 million. This could be done easily for both players with neither taking a pay cut.
That is $22.62 million in salary cut before even delving into several other contract restructures, including Wimbley's cap number coming down, which would free up money for free agent spending among other things.
Based on these numbers, what solutions can you come up with?