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Map the cap: A look at Raiders available coin

Las Vegas has “healthy salary cap” situation heading into free agency

For general manager Dave Ziegler, left, owner Mark Davis, center, and head coach Josh McDaniels, the Las Vegas Raiders enter free agency with a decent amount of cap space.
Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Applying the franchise tag to running back Josh Jacobs was the prudent move by the Las Vegas Raiders. It allows the team to retain negotiating rights with the 2022 rusher leader and gives both parties until July 17 to come to terms with on long-term deal.

The immediate effect of the franchise tag, however, is the $10.091 million cost for the designation. That number hit the Raiders cap space on the spot. Yet despite that, Las Vegas has headroom to make maneuvers in free agency — if it chooses to do so.

Let’s look at the particulars for a moment:

Map The Cap

  • 2023 NFL Salary Cap: $224,800,000
  • Raiders cap space: $39,077,038
  • Raiders dead money: $29,402,499
  • Raiders highest cap number: Maxx Crosby ($20.482 million) and Chandler Jones ($19.312 million)

The figures above, obtained from Over The Cap, gives the Raiders the fifth most cap space in the league after Jacobs’ non-exclusive franchise tag number hit the books. But it’s not difficult to imagine how much more coin Las Vegas would have at its disposal if not for the dead money portion above. But, there’s no use in crying over spilled milk.

New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders pass rushers Maxx Crosby, left, and Chandler Jones, right, both represent the team’s highest cap numbers for the 2023 season at $20.482 million and $19.312 million, respectively.
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears have the most operating room with a staggering $94.660-plus million free, followed by the Atlanta Falcons (more than $66.426 million), New York Giants (more than $46.062 million), and Houston Texans (more than $40.867 million).

Las Vegas can always create more space by agreeing to a long-term pact with Jacobs and/or restructuring current deals or working out extensions. Cap space can always be massaged and created if a team truly wants a player — see the New Orleans Saints who are more than $25 million in the hole before it doled out a rich deal to former Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.

Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler obviously views the team’s cap space as a good thing, but also harkened on the philosophy he’s instilling in the desert: Build through the draft and keep players in Las Vegas for a long time.

“Having a healthy cap situation, I just think we like the flexibility that gives us,” Ziegler said during a pre-combine media session last week. “It’s not always about signing a player that’s out there, but re-signing your own players, which we’ve talked about wanting to really kind of grow that continuity within our organization. And so, I think philosophically we would always like to kind of operate with some healthy cap and not kind of be tied against it.”

Does that mean Las Vegas won’t be rolling the dice in free agency? Hardly. That free-for-all begins March 13 and don’t expect the Raiders to merely sit idle. Not with the roster needing some serious talent infusion — especially defensively.

Ziegler, like every other NFL personnel people, knows the top-tier free agents agree to deals with teams right out the gates. But don’t be surprised if Ziegler and Co. are deliberate and patient during the league’s annual spending spree.

“We’re always going to have a group of players I would say in free agency that you just know based on what the market is and what conversations are, if you want to get that player, you’re going to have to do that in the first couple of days of free agency,” Ziegler said. “And then there’s going to be another pool of players that you’re going to make the decision on like this position group or this player or whatever it may be, we’re going to wait. We’re going to sit and wait and see how the market materializes. And I think that is predicated on maybe the depth of that position and that may be predicated on what the surplus and demand in the draft at that certain position is.”