The Raiders saw the day coming a long ways away that Stanford Routt, Kamerion Wimbley, and Kevin Boss were going to be due to get paid. Up to now, it appeared their releases were purely about the Raiders not being able to afford them. But according to Reggie McKenzie, it was not just about money.
It was also about production. Or to speak in business terms-cost-benefit ratio or return on investment (ROI).
"A little bit of both. When you talk about production versus a salary. In this business, once you get into the NFL, let's face it guys, contract and production all of that goes hand in hand. If something's not matching, kind of out of whack, you know, you're gonna have to be forced to make a decision. And that's what I was coming up to. It was not all just either or.
"If the production is not there but if the guy is making the minimum, you know, then so be it. You can use this guy as a backup because of the contract. But when the same doesn't work out contractually and production, you gotta be forced to evaluate. That's how you enter every season. We're all up against that. We gotta be evaluated. So that's where I made my decision. It wasn't ‘you're costing us too much money, you gotta go' no, if the guy was highly productive and we can make it work, we try to make it work financially but if not we're gonna have to make certain decision, some tough decisions. Which we did."
This speaks volumes for a guy like Michael Huff who was set to make a lot of money next season. But unlike the others, the team put forth the effort to find a way to "make it work financially" as McKenzie said.
This suggests that McKenzie sees him as being highly productive. Or perhaps Dennis Allen, being the defensive backs guru, suggested to McKenzie that Huff was worth the efforts to try and keep him.
The team also worked with linebacker Aaron Curry to bring him back. But Curry made significant concessions to his salary which essentially split it over two seasons. He would not have been back otherwise. But after the pay cut, Curry's contract, in McKenzie's eyes, was worthy of his production.
As for the cuts, Wimbley was set to make $11 million next season and total of $17.5 million in guarantees was also set to kick in over the life of the contract. That was Mario Williams type numbers for a guy who had just seven sacks last season-four of which came in one game against the Chargers in which he feasted on the backup left tackle lined up next to a third string left guard.
Routt received a shockingly large contract last offseason. He received Pro Bowl type contract numbers for a guy who has never sniffed a Pro Bowl and led the team in touchdowns given up and penalties. Snip, snip.
Boss came over as a free agent last offseason and after was out the first few games with an injury and couldn't crack 30 receptions on the season. His $4.5 million cap hit didn't match the Raiders plans for him in this offense.
In addition to these three, the team also cut John Henderson and Cooper Carlisle. Henderson falls into the category McKenzie speaks of when he said "if the guy is making the minimum, you know, then so be it. You can use this guy as a backup because of the contract". Henderson was a backup and he was set to make $4 million this season. Far from the minimum. Carlisle was brought back because he agreed to take a minimum salary-and he could be a starter.
"What I don't want to do is allow this to get us in the end." Said McKenzie. "I always want to be in position where if we want to add a quality player who we feel like it works out financially, cap wise, I wanna be in position to make a move. That's always been my whole outlook. When we had to make certain cuts, we do it with a future plan that we had. So far it's working accordingly."
No more scholarship players for these Raiders. No more "out of whack" contracts. And in this high stakes game of chess, some pieces will need to be sacrificed for the greater good.