This is the first offseason I can remember in which I have not heard the Raiders name mentioned surrounding several big name free agents. What happened? Al Davis dies and suddenly everyone assumes the Raiders are just going to sit around and do nothing? I don't think so.
Sure, the Raiders look to be $22 million over the cap. It won't be a cake walk to get underneath it, but they will. And in the process, they will probably have to cut loose a few big contributors with big contracts. Then the business of replacing those contributors will begin.
Sure, the Raiders will not be in play for multiple big name players in free agency. But they will very likely be in play for at least one big name and a few midlevel players. But that is not the way it appears if you look around the interwebs. You see an utter lack of any mention of the Silver and Black.
Al Davis was always over the cap and he always managed to get under it while being a player in the free agent market. Does everyone think he had some magic wand he waved that he took with him to the grave like Dumbledore in Harry Potter?
No, the way the Raiders got under the cap was no work of fantasy. The only difference now is the new regime is less likely to mortgage future years in the interest of getting under the cap now. And therefore the difference will be fewer big contracts to big name free agents. I said FEWER, not NONE.
The beauty of signing a free agent is the signing bonus. It is the "magic wand" teams typically wave to get under the cap with their current players. And it's just as easy to wave it with an incoming free agent but with no talk of pay cuts from existing contracts.
With the cap hit of a signing bonus being spread out over the life of the contract, it can lower the initial cap hit of a free agent signing considerably.
The key here is that the Raiders may not have the money to go willy nilly throwing money around. But they certainly are more than capable of focusing on signing one good free agent at a high need position. I fully expect them to do just that.
It is a responsible approach and the financial discipline they will need to use when making that decision is the kind of approach they should have anyway. Otherwise you are talking about the Washington Redskins who in recent years have thrown big money at multiple free agents only to continue to struggle. For more recent examples of that approach not panning out, just look at the Eagles and Seahawks from last season. The Raiders saw most of their free agents sign big contracts with those two teams and look where it got them-neither had a winning record.
My theory behind the absence of the Raiders name popping up with regard to free agents is a combination of two things. 1) Everyone is clueless what the Raiders will do without Al Davis running the show. 2) They look at the Packers track record while Reggie McKenzie was there and see the team rarely make a big splash in free agency.
The one big thing no one seems to be thinking about is the Raiders are in bit of a rebuilding phase. The Packers typically found their talent through the draft but the Raiders don't have much a draft to look forward to in April. They need to add talent to start building this team the way McKenzie and Dennis Allen want. They will need help from free agency to do that if they will have any hope of being a contender this season.
I fully expect the Raiders to shock a lot of teams in the NFL when they sneak up and nab a priority free agent. Then I expect them to make several shrewd free agent signings after that. Who that big free agent is remains to be seen. But there are only a few that I would count out completely.