The Raiders have tons of salary cap space heading into free agency. Stop me if you’ve heard that line before, or seen wacky GIFs and memes of general manager Reggie McKenzie and owner Mark Davis swimming in cash, tossing $100 bills or posing in front of stacks on stacks on stacks.
McKenzie set the Raiders up well against the salary cap with radical cuts early in his tenure and front-loaded contracts since that essentially become play-as-you-go deals after the first few seasons.
With an estimated $60.4 million in salary-cap space left to spend, the Raiders are expected to make it rain on this year’s veteran crop. That’s been said before, despite the fact McKenzie ultimately plans to build and replenish his roster through the NFL Draft.
They’ve been linked to several big names in the past, with several using the Raiders for leverage before signing with other teams. The Raiders were terrible forever and weren’t commonly considered an attractive destination.
Times, it seems, are changing. The Silver and Black have a franchise quarterback (Derek Carr) and an elite pass rusher (Khalil Mack) on the roster. They finished 7-9 last season during head coach Jack Del Rio’s first season at the helm, and are widely considered a team on the rise.
The Raiders also dumped millions into facility improvements, including new practice fields and a state-of-the-art training facility.
They have amenities, a chance to win and plenty of cash. The Raiders hope that’s a free-agent honey pot that’ll entice players they want.
“I feel like we were able to do that some last offseason,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “What we were able to accomplish (in 2015) by laying the foundation, establishing a proper culture and proper facility and environment that we’re working in are all positive signs so anyone looking at this picture now should say, ‘I’d like to be a part of that.’”
That should help the Raiders get players they want, though there will be competition for services. The NFL salary cap took a roughly $12 million jump, leaving several teams with enough cap space to spend big.
The Raiders should be active, as they have been the past two seasons. Free agency wasn’t terribly productive in 2014, with several aging vets producing lackluster returns. Last year was better, as the Raiders were able to target players on the rise who fit well into new systems.
McKenzie hopes to do that again, and hearing yes far more than no.
The Raiders need help at several spots, and veteran assistance would come in real handy at guard, safety, cornerback, pass rusher. Not every signing will be a big name, but a few should be recognizable.
The Raiders have to spend in order to reach the cash floor – NFL teams have to spend 89 percent of the 2013-2016 salary cap in cash -- though that isn’t as big a deal as many have assumed. There’s a calendar year to do so, with extensions coming for Carr and Mack this time next year.
McKenzie’s goal is getting productive players – free agency can be fool’s gold – without overpaying too much and keeping his franchise in good financial standing for while extensions come for the quality draft picks he’s selected the past few seasons.
The team’s uncertain future in Oakland could be an issue, with yet another one-year lease at O.co Coliseum all that anchors it to the East Bay. Players are generally transient and not terribly troubled by the uncertainty, and McKenzie hopes a possible move won’t impact players they recruit to an improving program.
“Hopefully it’s small,” McKenzie said. “It is what it is and we have to deal with it. We have to confront it with the player and the agent, but hopefully it’s not a major issue as we try to put together the best team we can.”