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Raiders Offseason 2023: Balancing the books

Derek Carr’s impending departure would clear more space as Las Vegas is slated to have about $50 million

NFL: Hall of Fame Game-Jacksonville Jaguars at Las Vegas Raiders
Derek Carr’s impending departure from the Las Vegas Raiders is slated to clear more than $29 million in cap space this offseason.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dave Ziegler is going to rebuild the Las Vegas Raiders roster. The disconcerting part to that is owner Mark Davis made it known when Ziegler was brought on as general manager along with Josh McDaniels as head coach, it wasn’t a rebuild, or a reload.

“It’s taking it to the next level,” Davis noted.

Unfortunately for the Silver & Black, the elevator malfunctioned and gut stuck between floors. And now a rebuild is the only proper course.

But that’s what happens when the team languished through a 6-11 campaign last season coupled with a staggering 28 in-house unrestricted free agents. Las Vegas’ roster will undoubtedly look different, especially with the team set to trot out a different quarterback in 2023.

Gone will be Derek Carr, the starter for the past nine seasons and he’ll either be released or traded just three days after the Super Bowl. And he’s the biggest hit to the Raiders’ ledger.

Quick shout out to readers astutely pointing out an out in the contract extension Carr signed this past offseason and scoffing at it being a long-term commitment. Turns out, they were right and the Raiders are set to exercise the exit route and take on only a $5.6 million dead cap hit if Carr is merely cut. The decision must come fast as his 2023 base salary ($32.9 million) and $7.5 million of his 2024 salary become fully guaranteed on Feb. 15.

Argue the moral grounds of waxing Carr from the roster all you like, but there’s no quarrel on the cap ramifications of getting the quarterback off the books. In fact, it’ll make book keeping tidier for the Raiders.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Las Vegas Raiders
Running back Josh Jacobs led the league in rushing this past season as he’s slated to hit unrestricted free agency. He’s likely to earn a handsome pay day.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

According to both Spotrac and Over The Cap, Carr’s 2023 cap number is $34.875 million (nearly 15 percent of the Raiders cap). Take the dead cap hit of $5.625 million with that and the Raiders open up about $29.25 million in cap space.

Even though the NFL hasn’t announced the official 2023 salary cap, it’s expected to top the $220 million mark, a marked increase over the $208 million figure for this past season. The final cap ceiling puts the Raiders in a sound financial spot. The team rolls over more than $6.68 million in unused cap space from last season into the new league year and gaining an additional $29.25 million when Carr is off the books should give Las Vegas around $50 million in cap room.

With the Carr move occurring in February, it sets up Ziegler and McDaniels well for not only free agency the following month, but also frees up the coffers for Las Vegas to potentially bring back the slew of in-house free agents — namely running back Josh Jacobs.

Tip Of The Cap

Speaking of Jacobs, it’s unclear yet if the Raiders will pony up the coin to keep the talented running back in the fold. Over The Cap and Spotrac sport valuations that have Jacobs contract at $15 million per season or $12 million per year. Time will tell if that’s too rich for the Raiders’ blood.

For reference, the top three tailbacks in terms of coin are: The San Francisco 49ers Christian McCaffrey, the New Orleans Saints Alvin Kamara, and the Dallas Cowboys Ezekiel Elliot. McCaffrey has the highest average per year at just north of $16 million and the highest guaranteed coin, north of $30 million at signing. Kamara and Elliot average $15 million per season with the latter getting north of $28 million guaranteed at signing.

There are five running backs behind the top-earning trio making above or at $12 million per season.

The franchise tag is always in play if the Raiders and Jacobs can’t agree to a new contract, but it certainly does appear the workhorse tailback is going to get a handsome pay day — from Las Vegas or another team.