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NFL free agency 2018: Raiders looking to be players

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NFL: Oakland Raiders-Jon Gruden Press Conference Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t look now, but free agency is coming up fast. It’s inside a month until the league year ends and Jon Gruden and the Raiders are already looking at players to bring in.

The first step in that process was to look at what he had on the roster already, a process which Gruden told the Mercury News this week that he has completed.

Part of that process includes deciding which of their own free agents they want to bring back. Middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman, defensive lineman Denico Autry, and cornerback TJ Carrie headline those.

After his roster analysis was complete, Gruden and McKenzie took a look at the team’s cap situation.

The first cap cut was David Amerson. A decision on his future was needed by three days after the Super Bowl. The Raiders didn’t waste time. They cut him the day after the Super Bowl.

His release put the team at near $28 million under the cap according to figures collected by Spotrac.com. There are a few others who could still be cut or be asked to take a pay cut. The most expensive and potentially most likely to be released include Sean Smith, Michael Crabtree, Marshawn Lynch, and Bruce Irvin. The four of them represent near $31 million in salary with no dead money left behind if they were cut.

That doesn’t mean all four will be cut. I highly doubt they will be. Some of them will be asked to take a pay cut or restructures. Bruce Irvin is reportedly one of those players.

The only certainty is this means the Raiders have a lot of wiggle room. Setting aside an estimated $7.5 million for the draft pool, they would have $20-$51 million to spend depending on how they see potential free agents comparing to the guys currently on the roster. And Jon Gruden has his eye on a few free agents.

“The last four or five days, we’ve really focused on some specific free agents that will be available when free agency begins,” said Gruden. “It’s been a grind.”

With the team very likely to look to sign Khalil Mack to a long term extension, it would take up a sizable portion of their available cap space. So, in order to make any kind of splash in free agency, more maneuvering will be necessary. Especially if they hope to sign players to the type of front loaded contracts Reggie McKenzie typically makes with no dead money after the first couple years.

The free agent negotiating period begins March 12, leaving three days to figure out who they can sign. Deals can be made official with the start of the new league year on March 14.

There figures to be some good talent out there that would be upgrades and fill the Raiders’ needs, most notably at cornerback, defensive tackle, tight end, running back, and edge rusher.

In the next few weeks, some of those free agents will be re-signed by their current teams. That could include the Raiders with their free agents. And roster cuts on other teams will add to the current free agent talent pool. This time next month the Raiders will have a few new faces.