Things were looking a lot better for the Oakland Raiders when the lockout negotiations were looking worse. That shouldn't be too surprising—pirates thrive in the peak of chaos. When the NFLPA got the lockout lifted the speculation was that the 2011 season would be played under the same rules governing the 2010 season in free agency and the Raiders were golden. There would be no cap; the Raiders had the majority of their players re-signed, and the ones they didn't they had tendered agreements to.
Now it seems inevitable that the 2011 season will be played under the ordered confines of a new CBA. That means a salary cap is coming back, and Zach Miller, Michael Bush and Samson Satele will become unrestricted free agents. This is why I have posted several times on this process likely costing the Raiders Michael Bush. They just aren't going to have the money under the cap to sign him.
My best estimations had the Raiders at $125 million in salary in 2011, and the 2009 salary cap was 128 million.
Well, ESPN's John Clayton started thinking along these lines for the entire NFL, and I am willing to concede that is very likely his numbers are far more accurate than mine—he is the professor after all. Check it; after the jump....
Clayton projects the $120 million for the 2011 salary cap, which makes sense given the fact that the player's share is shrinking in the new CBA. Here is what Clayton had to say about the Raiders:
Owner Al Davis was aggressive in re-signing eight players for contracts totaling $85.48 million. But if the cap is at $120 million, the Raiders may have issues. If new cap rules exclude some $26 million in "dead" money for players whose contracts were voided to make them free agents this year, that would help. If accounting rules include the "dead" money, the Raiders would be $14.78 million over the cap and would have to cut some players. Their payroll of $103.2 million isn't out of line, but the "dead" money issue could cause them problems if it isn't cleared up.
Clayton's estimate puts the Raiders at $134 million, which puts them in the hole almost $10 million more than I had. Clayton does lend a ray of hope with the dead money clause. I have never heard of this before, and it certainly makes sense. It seems illogical to hold a team accountable for salaries of players whose contracts were voided by options not being picked up.
It also makes sense that the owners would agree to give themselves some level of flexibility adjusting to a cap after a year of not having one.
So let's just assume that the cap is at $120 million and the Raiders don't have to count the dead money. That leaves the Raiders with almost $15 million in cap room, and still having to sign all their rookies and guys like Miller and Bush.
This is where the Raiders are going to benefited by not having a first-round pick. They aren't going to have to fork over big bucks to the rookies. Signing the rookies should only account for around $3-4 million in cap space in 2011.
That leaves the Raiders with $11 million in cap room under Clayton's scenario. Zach Miller will likely account for $7-8 million. I think we can all agree that the Raiders are going to make him the top priority, and that Al Davis will pay him well. Before the lockout the Jaguars signed Marcedes Lewis—a TE similarly valued to Miller—to a one-year deal worth $7.25 million.
Alright that leaves the Raiders with $3-4 million, and they still have to fill out the roster. That is not enough room to re-seign Bush. It also means the Raiders won't be able to add anything but near minimum contracts in free agency.
It is a bleak picture. Hopefully, the owners will account for some sort of wiggle room in the cap for 2011. The biggest sign of hope for creating a little cap room lies with Kamerion Wimbley.
Wimbley currently has the franchise tag, which is likely going to account for $11.32 million. If the Raiders can negotiate a long-term deal with Wimbley and lower that number it could create some wiggle room.
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