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Raiders immediate big free agent plans means ‘cap jail' in 2013

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A lot has been made of Tyvon Branch and his new contract. For most of the offseason, signing him long term was to be a major event. Not only to keep the standout safety with the team but to give the Raiders some much needed cap relief.

Now the deal is done and the details of the deal suggest the Raiders have some big plans for the next couple weeks as far as free agency is concerned. But that deal also means the team will be back in what Reggie McKenzie termed "cap jail" for the 2013 season.

The Raiders currently have around $5 million to spend in free agency. That amount is enough to sign two good free agents who are still on the market.

A few names still out there who may be of interest include running backs Cedric Benson (who the team had for a visit last month), Ryan Grant, and Jackie Battle. There is also linebackers EJ Henderson and Gary Brackett. Others who could be of interest include tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin.

At this point in free agency, the remaining free agents fall into one of two categories. Either they are reaching a point of desperation in which they will lower their asking price and sign just to be on an NFL team or they are simply waiting for a team to get desperate enough to sign them. Typically it happens when there is an injury in camp and a starting job opens up. The player could then not only get the a starting job but get paid as such.

The Raiders currently have two open roster spots which also means they have every intention on filling those spots before camp begins on July 29. There is no reason for the team to head into camp with two less players on the roster than they are allowed. Keeping two guys getting paid league minimum would not be an issue and would not affect the cap. But having those spots open suggests bigger plans than a couple of camp bodies.

This available cap space is great for now. But to do it, the team shifted a lot of money to the second year of Tyvon Branch's new deal. His cap hit will be $10.9 million for 2013, which is quite a lot of money and it could mean the team will opt to restructure Branch's deal just a year after he signed it.

The team has 50 players under contract for 2013 and according to NFL.com, their total salary adds up to $130 million. With the cap predicted at about the same as it was last season, that puts the Raiders already over by as much as $10 million. And that doesn't include several key free agents the team would like to re-sign-- Matt Shaughnessy tops among them.

The team signed quite a few players to one year deals this offseason such as starters Philip Wheeler, Khalif Barnes, Cooper Carlisle, Ron Bartell, and Shawntae Spencer. They will undoubtedly want to keep some of them.

That means come the 2013 offseason, the Raiders will be back at it restructuring deals and likely cutting a couple guys whose contracts are seen as "out of whack". They will get under the cap. There's no question about that. The team was in far worse shape heading into this offseason. But every year that goes by with restructures means more money shifted into the future. Then we are back to dealing with frugality and low end and last minute free agent signings.

Overall, the Raiders will be in much better shape. I guess instead of the maximum security cap prison they were in this offseason, they will be in more of a paroled halfway house next offseason. It is senseless to look any farther into the future in regards to the cap. A lot can and will change between now and then.

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