I asked Raiders newest offensive lineman, Kelechi Osemele after he had signed with the team, what made him choose Oakland over the Ravens or other potential teams. His response what simply that the Raiders showed how much they value offensive linemen.
"We have a really up and coming team that was sold to me a lot," said Osemele. "Going through the roster, I kind of saw what everybody was saying. The emphasis on building the offensive line coming from a place where it was not really appreciated. I wanted to be where offensive line is a focus and it matters and they want to build that up. That was a big factor."
From Osemele's perspective it's easy to say the Raiders value offensive linemen being that they made him by far the highest paid guard ($11.7 million per season) in the NFL by nearly $4 million per season over the next highest paid guy (Mike Iupati at $8 million per season). But Osemele is just the latest in offensive line investments that have given the Raiders what amounts to the second highest paid offensive line in football.
Currently the Raiders offensive line salary makes of nearly a quarter (23.7%) of their entire team's salary cap allocation this season. They count some $37.5 million against the salary cap which is second only to the Vikings at $39.6 million according to figures accumulated by Spotrac.com
That's definitely investing in an offensive line.
The Raiders 2016 offensive line salaries stack up like this:
OG Kelechi Osemele $13.2 million
C Rodney Hudson $7.7 million
LT Donald Penn $6.1 million
RT Austin Howard $5.9 million
OL Matt McCants $1.67 million
RT Menelik Watson $1.53 million
OG Gabe Jackson $763k
OG Jon Feliciano $640k
There's no question the Raiders have had the money to invest in their offensive line in the past three offseasons. The only player to receive a big contract prior to their influx of cap space was Austin Howard in a contract many believe was unintentionally prorated to kick dead money down the road being that such contracts are out of character for the new regime.
All other free agent contracts have been frontloaded to lessen the burden later. Hudson's per year average is actually $9 million, but he saw most of that in the first year which is why he will make $7.7 this season. Osemele and Penn signed their current contracts this offseason which is why theirs are as high as they are.
Both Osemele and Hudson at the time of their signing were made the highest paid player at their position. Hudson as the top rated center on the market and Osemele for being the best guard out there and one who showed the ability to play left tackle as well, which adds to his value and likely caused the Raiders to have to outbid other suitors to get him.
Matt McCants place among the top five may seem odd, but it's easily explainable. Watson, Jackson, and Feliciano are on their rookie contracts as 2nd, 3rd and 4th round picks respectively, while McCants's figure is due to his being given an original round tender as a restricted free agent.
All other offensive linemen on the team fall below the top 51 and therefore don't count against the salary cap.