NaVorro Bowman

How much will Khalil Mack's new deal cost for Raiders?

mack-us.jpg
USATSI

How much will Khalil Mack's new deal cost for Raiders?

The Raiders offseason workout program is underway and the NFL draft is less than two weeks away, meaning the Silver and Black are coming together as a team that will weather the 2018 season.

There are holes left to fill with amateur selections. Salary cap space must get cleared to pay these new draft picks. Khalil Mack’s contract extension must get worked out. Lingering injury issues remains

Questions abound remain heading into this spring. Let’s answer a few in a pre-draft mailbag.

Q: What do you think a Khalil Mack extension will cost the Raiders? How will it work with the cap? (Brad Schmidt, on Facebook)

A: The Raiders remain confident they’ll reach an long-term pact with edge rusher Khalil Mack this offseason. They know it won’t be cheap. Von Miller’s $114 million deal should be viewed as a baseline for Mack’s deal, which should set a market for defensive players. He’s worth that amount, and the Raiders understand his value.

A new deal could be in the ballpark of $120 million over six years. NFL Network’s Steve Wyche reported a deal could include $65 million in guaranteed money, a fair total that may get exceed. Time will tell on that front.

The Raiders have future cap space available for Mack. They’re up against it this year, but don’t forget Mack’s fifth-year option accounts for $13.86 million of that total. Most, if not all of his new money could come next year, or Mack’s 2018 cap number could decrease with a massive signing bonus – that cap hit would be split over the life of the deal -- and a lower base salary. The Raiders have options in that regard.

Also, there’s little stress about Mack missing early offseason workouts. He’ll be in shape when he reports. Make no mistake about that. There’s plenty of time to get a deal done this offseason, though the Raiders hope it’s done before training camp.

Q: Will Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu make a big impact this year? (Michael Abelar, on Facebook)

A: The Raiders expect big things from Gareon Conley. Pencil him into the starting lineup right now despite the fact he isn’t fully cleared for offseason workouts. He’s still recovering from shin surgery, and the Raiders are playing it safe with his rehab. After missing most of last season with this shin issue, the Raiders aren’t taking any chances this spring. That’s not a big deal.

They expect him to be a major contributor in 2018. You should, too. Last year’s No. 24 overall pick has great talent and zero injury history before this shin issue. Fans were troubled by an NFLN report that he wasn’t fully ready last week. Don’t forget he had surgery late last year after trying to rehab his way back into the mix.

Melifonwu, last year’s second-round pick, also missed most of the season with hip and knee issues. His 2018 role is less certain. He’s going to have to earn one. Marcus Gilchrist is expected to start at safety, and comes with the versatility to play deep, closer to the line or in the slot.

Q: Will the Reuben Foster situation effect what the Raiders might do with the 10th pick? (@YouKnowMico, on Twitter)

A: Interesting question, and a valid one considering the Raiders and 49ers share similar needs and the Santa Clarans have a higher draft priority at No. 9. I’ve said several times losing that hokey draft-order-determining coin toss at the combine could have ramifications on the Raiders draft options, and that could be the case if inside linebacker’s the top choice.

Foster’s uncertain employment status – he has been charged with felony domestic violence, among other things -- makes inside linebacker a real option for 49ers GM John Lynch at No. 9, and the Raiders would be bummed if Tremaine Edmunds were taken off the board.

That’s what happened in my mock draft with 49ers insider Matt Maiocco, which took before Foster’s legal woes intensified. The 49ers could take a cornerback or safety or edge rusher the Raiders covet as well, thanks to several similar draft needs. There will be plenty of good options at No. 10, especially if a quarterback run commences above the Raiders pick, so GM Reggie McKenzie won’t lose too much sleep over what the 49ers do.

Q: Do you foresee the Raiders cutting Jared Cook? (Richard Sablan, on Twitter)

A: The veteran tight end’s name has been brought up as a salary-cap casualty this offseason, and for good reason. He’s owed $5 million in non-guaranteed base salary, can be cut without a cap hit.

It’s possible he gets cut to make room for others, but I’d consider it unlikely at this stage. The Raiders cut Clive Walford instead, leaving but one receiving tight end on the roster. That could change, obviously, if the Raiders go tight end in the NFL draft.

Gruden called Cook “a great receiving tight end” at the NFL owners meetings. He isn’t wrong. Cook led the Raiders with 688 receiving yards on 54 catches, and could be an asset in the middle of the field, with speed to play slot receiver if asked.

Q: Do you think Tahir Whitehead fits best on the strong side or weak side? (David Lawrence Ransom, on Facebook)

A: I’ll let the Pro Football Focus people answer that one. Whitehead has experience playing all three linebacker spots, though Gruden said they’ll try him on the outside first. He has graded out best on the weak side, and has extensive experience playing there. That should be his original spot in this defense and a starting linebacker corps that remains in flux around him.

Q: Will (Navorro) Bowman be back with us? (Anthony Ramirez, on Facebook)

A: That’s still uncertain, though the Raiders don’t have much salary cap space remaining and have a draft class to pay. As I’ve said before, the Raiders wanted to lock Bowman up before free agency began March 14 but the sides couldn’t meet on money. Then the Raiders started spending on others. The Raiders would like Bowman back, but the price has to match. Bowman might be waiting for an offseason injury to create higher demand for his services, though he hasn’t said anything publicly since January.

He would pair well with Tahir Whitehead, though there’s no telling if he will. Bottom line: The Raiders need help at middle linebacker, whether it’s Bowman or a draft pick.

Q: Do you think Oakland takes a tackle high in the draft? Or is the starting right tackle already on the roster? (Gilbert Escamilla, on Facebook)

A: It’s possible the Raiders go with an offensive tackle in the early rounds. They need help at right tackle and a long-term solution on the left. That position gets expensive in free agency, so a draft pick could keep costs lower while paying other offensive linemen premium dollars.

The Raiders could trade down and grab one in the first round or take one in the second worthy of a starting spot. That would be a luxury, but it doesn’t count as a pressing need.

The Raiders could role with Donald Penn on the left and Breno Giacomini on the right, though Vadal Alexander and others will challenge the latter this offseason.

Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie 'would love' to have NaVorro Bowman back

bowman-thumbsup-ap.jpg
AP

Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie 'would love' to have NaVorro Bowman back

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Raiders plan to play new linebacker Tahir Whitehead on the outside of their 4-3 base defense, most likely on the weak side.

Whitehead has experience playing all three linebacker spots including the middle, but general manager Reggie McKenzie would prefer to have someone else occupy the center spot.

He wants NaVorro Bowman playing in the eye of his defense, running the show. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has expressed a similar sentiment.

The desire is there. A deal, however, is not. Yet. 

Bowman remains on the open market, hoping to develop a satisfying deal with the Raiders or another team. McKenzie has made an offer. It has not been accepted.

That doesn’t mean he’s giving up hope Bowman will re-up with a team he joined midseason, after being released by the 49ers.

“I will say this: We would love to have NaVorro back,” McKenzie said Monday during an interview with Raiders beat writers at the NFL owners meetings. “We haven’t been able to work out a deal, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want him. We really do.”

Bowman’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was at the Ritz Carlton hotel Tuesday, where this year’s annual meeting is held and, according to The Athletic, will meet with the Raiders on Bowman’s behalf. The Raiders hope to have Bowman back in the fray shortly, though they are working on a budget.

McKenzie doesn’t have much salary-cap space remaining, though they can quickly cut a veteran without guaranteed money to create room to re-sign Bowman.

That remains a priority, even though the process has taken longer than the Raiders hoped. They wanted to re-sign Bowman before free agency opened March 14, but the linebacker has slow-played things trying to maximize his compensation.

The Raiders wants Bowman and Whitehead playing together, giving a veteran element to the linebacker corps. Both guys are strong run defenders, but a true coverage presence is also needed in the group.

Whitehead could play in the middle, but the Raiders could look to others, likely in the NFL draft, if Bowman goes elsewhere.

Bringing him back, however, remains a priority.

Raiders' exclusive negotiating window on Bowman, Autry, pending FAs closing soon

bowman-raiders-intro-ap.jpg
AP

Raiders' exclusive negotiating window on Bowman, Autry, pending FAs closing soon

NFL free agency doesn’t start until Wednesday afternoon. The league’s exclusive negotiating window closes well before that.

Opponents can contact pending free agents (their representatives, anyway) starting Monday afternoon. That means the Raiders, like other teams, will soon face competition re-signing their own free agents.

Defensive tackle Justin Ellis’ deal got done beforehand. The Raiders have told Sebastian Janikowski and Jon Condo they won’t attempt to re-sign them.

That leaves seven players headed for unrestricted free agency, a group headlined by NaVorro Bowman, TJ Carrie and Denico Autry. The Raiders don’t have any restricted free agents (with three year’s service time), and therefore don’t need to tender players in that spot. They also have six exclusive rights free agents, including kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, who have to take low-cost tenders given to them. All six should get tenders and a chance to compete on the 90-man roster.

Allowing competition into the negotiating process doesn’t mean members of this free-agent class won’t return. It can often help the process. A market gets established, and the Raiders can choose to pay within that range or back off.

The Raiders, for example, have made it clear they want Bowman back. They value Autry, and Carrie could be a quality part of an upgraded cornerback corps. It’s certainly possible other teams outbid for those players.

The Raiders don’t have tons of cap space – they can easily create more by cutting veterans without guaranteed money – and could get priced out of prioritized re-signings.

Open talks could drive a market below an agent’s original asking price, providing value to a team’s proceedings.

It is believed Autry will hit Monday afternoon without a new deal. Time will tell regarding Bowman, Carrie and others. The Raiders let most of their free agents walk last year, despite a desire to retain quite a few.

The Raiders to bring some back, and will let others walk. It’s tough to tell exactly how they prioritize this year’s free agents. Jon Gruden’s influence is a bit of a wild card. Here’s a list of players with expiring contracts and whether or not the Raiders should bring them back.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

MLB NaVorro Bowman (YES) – Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther have intimated, or been express, about a desire to bring Bowman back. The dollars still have to match up.

CB TJ Carrie (YES) – Yet another productive member of the 2014 draft class could well return. Carrie proved a serviceable starter, and could be a good No. 3 with Conley and a free agent on the outside. Carrie wants to return. His market will dictate that.

DL Denico Autry (YES) – Re-signing Ellis constitutes a minor surprise, with Autry a more versatile talent. Brining him back seems logical, though he market may be higher than the Raiders hope.

TE Lee Smith (MAYBE) – Gruden made it clear the Raiders need a blocking tight end. Smith is pretty good doing that, though the coach’s opinion on the incumbent is unclear.

QB EJ Manuel (MAYBE) – Gruden was complimentary of 2016 fourth-round pick Connor Cook coming out of the draft, and could want to develop the Michigan State product. Manuel is a strong-armed backup with starter’s experience.

DB Keith McGill (NO) – One of a few 2014 draftees who didn’t pan out, McGill was a core special teams player who didn’t contribute much on defense.

S Reggie Nelson (NO) – The 34-year old’s tenure in Oakland may be up. He struggled at times last year.

LS Jon Condo, K Sebastian Janikowski – The Raiders will allow both veterans to leave in free agency.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

S Erik Harris, DE/LB Shilique Calhoun, OL Denver Kirkland, DE James Cowser, K Giorgio Tavecchio